Immigration Policy

1990s emigration advertisement
A 1990s advertisement for migration to Australia: 'Australia: a safe investment... for the whole family'.
Source: Department of Immigration & Multicultural Affairs

Since the 1970s, Australia's immigration policy has reflected international agreements about equality and fairness. A 1973 amendment to the Migration Act introduced a non-discriminatory immigration policy, and the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act formally rejected the racist bias of the White Australia policy.

In the past two decades, between 76,000 and 120,000 immigrants have arrived in Australia every year. They have been selected from four broad categories:

Skilled migrants

During the 1980s, the Government introduced business migration programs, encouraging immigrants with particular professional skills, business experience, Information Technology skills, significant capital or a sponsoring employer. Since 1997, Skill Stream immigrants have outnumbered Family Stream immigrants. In the current period, there is a need to fill vacancies for health professionals, pastry-chefs and hairdressers.

Family Reunion

Enabling the reunion of families, Family Stream immigration was emphasised in the 1970s and early 1980s. Successful applicants are selected on the basis of a family relationship to a sponsor in Australia.

Humanitarian migration

This provides for refugees or other people in urgent need of resettlement. Humanitarian Stream immigration comprises offshore and onshore resettlement programs. Australia's intake of refugees has declined since the 1980s, from 20,000 each year to 12,000 in 2002.

Special migration

This Stream caters for people with special sporting, cultural or artistic talents. For example, Tatiana Grigorieva (a pole-vaulter from Russia) is one of the people who qualified in this Stream to migrate to Australia.


  • Find out more about Australia's migration program by accessing the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Fact Sheets Index:

    Which fact sheets would you be interested in if you wanted to find out about bringing your grandmother to Australia?

    Which fact sheets would you be interested in if you were a nurse wanting to migrate to Australia?

  • Visit the local website of the UNHCR—the UN Refugee Agency:

    Prepare a presentation on Australia's assistance to refugees wishing to enter Australia.

    What are the issues/problems facing this program?