Timeline

This timeline traces how prejudice has affected who we are, how we govern and what we believe. For centuries science and politics have influenced how we think and feel about those who have been considered different, inferior, or threatening. Consider whether you think these attitudes continue to resonate today.

  1. 1500 – 1850s

  2. 1850s – 1900

  3. 1901 – 1945

  4. 1946 – 1980

  5. 1981 – today

Scientific thought shifts away from using ‘race’ to define human variation. After World War II, international declarations are made relating to discrimination and human rights. While the doors to European migrants widen, Australian Government preferences for a dominant British-based population see migrant selection and assimilation policies continue well into the 1960s. Assimilation policies relating to Aboriginal people also persevere but the fight to recognise Indigenous rights in Australia gains momentum, partly influenced by international civil rights movements. Government policies embracing a culturally diverse population are evident in the 1970s through increased Indo-Chinese refugee intakes and multicultural programs.

  1. 1947

    Efforts to perpetuate a white Australia see the start of a massive assisted British immigration scheme, as well as the acceptance of refugees from Baltic countries. 'It is my hope that for every foreign migrant there will be ten people from the United Kingdom.' Arthur Calwell, Minister for Immigration, 1946.

    Displaced persons from Baltic countries were initially favoured for entry in the belief that they would easily ‘blend in,’ 1947.
    Displaced persons from Baltic countries were initially favoured for entry in the belief that they would easily ‘blend in,’ 1947.
    Source: State Library of Victoria
  2. 1948

    A policy of legal racial segregation, known as apartheid, is enforced by the National Party government of South Africa until 1994. In Australia, segregation is imposed unofficially in public places such as theatres and swimming pools.

    Aboriginal children 'painted white' to enter a swimming pool, 1965.
    Aboriginal children 'painted white' to enter a swimming pool, 1965.
    Image: John Frith
    Source: Herald and Weekly Times
  3. 1948

    Australia signs the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, nations begin to dismantle discriminatory immigration policies and introduce bills of rights.

  4. 1950

     UNESCO releases its statement on race:  'At the moment, it is impossible to demonstrate that there exist between 'races' differences of intelligence and temperament other than those produced by cultural environment.'

  5. 1950s

    Citizenship ceremonies are embraced by local residents across Australia, who organise events for recently arrived migrants in council and community halls.

    Naturalisation ceremony
    Migrants from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, former Yugoslavia, Germany and Poland naturalised at Mornington Council hall, Victoria, 1958.
    Source: National Archives of Australia
  6. 1951

    Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention on Genocide, despite the continuing removal of Aboriginal children from their parents which under Article 2 (e) is considered to be a form of genocide.

  7. 1953

    The double helix structure of DNA is identified by James D. Watson and Frances Crick. From the 1970s, genetic research begins to map the history of human populations.

  8. 1955-68

    Civil Rights movements in the UK and USA influence Aboriginal political activism in Australia. In 1963 Martin Luther King advocates for racial harmony in his famous 'I have a dream' speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

  9. 1965

    Australia is a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. The 1960s see several UN conventions ratified by Australia in relation to discrimination and civil and political rights.

  10. 1965

    Charles Perkins leads a 'freedom ride' by Aboriginal people and non- Aboriginal students through New South Wales in support of Aboriginal rights.

    Student Aboriginal rights demonstrators, Walgett, New South Wales, 1967.
    Student Aboriginal rights demonstrators, Walgett, New South Wales, 1967.
    Image: Wendy Watson-Ekstein
    Source: Ann Curthoys
  11. 1967

     National referendum gives the Commonwealth power to make and override state laws for Aboriginal people, and to count Aboriginal people in the national census.

  12. 1972

    Commonwealth government establishes a policy of 'self-determination' to restore to Aboriginal people a voice in their economic, social, political and land ownership affairs.

  13. 1973

    The 'White Australia' policy officially ends and Al Grassby, Minister for Immigration, launches the policy of multiculturalism.

  14. 1975

    The Racial Discrimination Act is passed in the Federal Parliament. The Australian Senate unanimously endorses a resolution tabled by Aboriginal Senator Neville Bonner acknowledging prior ownership of this country by Aboriginal peoples and seeking compensation for their dispossession.

  15. 1975

    Saigon falls and a draconian communist government in Vietnam takes power. People flee and begin to arrive in Australia by boat and through refugee camps. Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal government adopts a generous refugee intake policy, broadly accepted by the Australian community.

I am proud to be a drifter

Sara, Sweden, 28More quotes

Related collection items

Explore exhibition objects

  • Lantern Slide - The Slave Gang, Life & Work of Dr David Livingstone, circa 1900
  • Medal - Causes of Variation in Mankind, Cole's Book Arcade, Victoria, Australia, circa 1885
  • Badge - Australian Timber Workers Union, circa 1920s
  • Book - A.O. Neville, 'Australia's Coloured Minority: Its Place in the Community', Currawong Publishing Co, 1947
  • Pamphlet - 'I Stand By White Australia', Arthur Calwell, Australian Federal Minister for Immigration, 1949
  • Leaflet - Australian Labour Party, 'How To Vote', 1967
  • Booklet - A. J. Grassby, 'A Multi-Cultural Society for the Future', 11 Aug 1973
  • Badge - 'Racism Sux', circa 1990s-2000s
  • Badge - White Australia has a Black History, Australia, 1988
  • Sign - The Proprietor of this Establishment is British, circa 1940s
  • Painting - 'Redheaded Bitch (Xenophobia)', Harry J Wedge, Framed, circa 1996