Racism in Australia
Racism in Australia traces both historical and contemporary racist community attitudes, as well as political non-compliance and governmental negligence on United Nations human rights standard and incidents in Australia. Contemporary Australia is the product of multiple waves of immigration, predominantly from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Laws forbid racial and other forms of discrimination and protect freedom of religion. Demographic analysis indicates a high level of inter-ethnic marriage: according to the Australian Census, a majority of Indigenous Australians partnered with non-indigenous Australians, and a majority of third-generation Australians of non-English-speaking background had partnered with persons of different ethnic origin (the majority partnered with persons of Australian or Anglo-Celtic background, which constitutes the majority ethnic grouping in Australia). In 2009, about 25.6 per cent of the estimated resident population of Australia comprised those born overseas.
Indigenous peoples of Australia who had lived in Australia for at least 65,000+ years before the arrival of British settlers in 1788, were dispossessed from their land in 1788 by Britain, which claimed Eastern Australia as its own on the basis of the now discredited doctrine of terra nullius. Initially, indigenous Australians were in most states deprived of the rights of full citizenship of the new nation on grounds of their race and restrictive immigration laws were introduced to preference white European immigrants to Australia. Discriminatory laws against indigenous people and multiethnic immigration were dismantled in the early decades of the Post War period. A 1967 Referendum regarding Aboriginal rights was carried with over 90% approval by the electorate. Legal reforms have re-established Aboriginal Land Rights under Australian law and in the early 21st century, indigenous Australians account for around 2.5% of the population, owning outright around 20% of all land. Intense focus on the impact of historical policies like the removal of mixed ethnicity Aboriginal children from their Aboriginal parent resulted in a bipartisan Parliamentary apology to Aborigines carried in 2008. Aboriginal health indicators remain lower than other ethnic groups within Australia and again are the subject of political debate.
Policies of multiculturalism were pursued in the post-war period and first Eastern and Southern European, then Asian and African immigration increased significantly. Legislation including the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Commonwealth Racial Hatred Act (1995) and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act (1986) outlaw racial discrimination in the public sphere in Australia. In recent decades, anti-immigration political parties like the One Nation Party have received extensive media coverage, but only marginal electoral support and successive governments have maintained large, multiethnic programs of immigration. As in other Western nations, tensions in the aftermath of events like the September 11 attacks and Bali Bombing by radical extremists contributed to strained ethnic relations in some Australian communities.
- 1 Indigenous Australians
- 2 Immigrant communities
- 3 Issues in contemporary Australia
- 4 Legislation relating to racism
- 5 Anti-racism organisations and initiatives
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
Indigenous peoples of Australia, comprising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, have lived in Australia for at least 65,000+ years before the arrival of British settlers in 1788. The colonisation of Australia and development into a nation, saw explicit and implicit racial discrimination against Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Australians continue to be subjected to racist government policy and community attitudes. Racist community attitudes towards Aboriginal people have been confirmed as continuing both by surveys of Indigenous Australians  and self-disclosure by non-Indigenous Australians.
Since 2007, government policy considered to be racist include the Northern Territory Intervention which failed to produce a single child abuse conviction, cashless welfare cards trialled almost exclusively in Aboriginal communities, the Community Development Program that has seen Indigenous participants fined at a substantially higher rate than non-Indigenous participants in equivalent work-for-the-dole schemes, and calls to shut down remote Indigenous communities despite the United Nation's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples specifying governments must facilitate the rights of Indigenous people to live on traditional land.
In 2016, police raids and behaviour on Palm Island following a death in custody were found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, with a record class action settlement of $30 million awarded to victims in May 2018. The raids were found by the court to be "racist" and "unnecessary, disproportionate" with police having "acted in these ways because they were dealing with an Aboriginal community."
Despite Indigenous peoples being recognised under British common law as British subjects, with equal rights under the law, colonial government policy and public opinion treated Aboriginal peoples as inferior. The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, which came into force on 26 January 1949, created an Australian citizenship, but which co-existed with the continuing status of British subject. Aborigines became Australian citizens under the 1948 Act in the same way as other Australians (though Aborigines were not counted in the Australian population until after the 1967 referendum). The same applied to Torres Strait Islanders and the indigenous population of the Territory of Papua (then a part of Australia).
In 1770 and again in 1788, Britain claimed Eastern Australia as its own on the basis of the now discredited doctrine of terra nullius. The implication of the doctrine became evident when John Batman purported to make Batman's Treaty in 1835 with the Wurundjeri Elders of the area around the future Melbourne. Governor Bourke of New South Wales proclaimed the Treaty null and void and that indigenous Australians could not sell or assign land, nor could an individual person or group acquire it, other than through distribution by the Crown. Though the so-called Treaty was objectionable on many grounds, it was the first, and until the 1990s, the only time that an attempt was made to deal directly with the Indigenous peoples.
The British navigator James Cook claimed the east coast of Australia for Britain in 1770, without conducting negotiations with the existing inhabitants. The first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, was expressly instructed to establish friendship and good relations with the Aborigines and interactions between the early settlers and the Indigenous people varied considerably throughout the colonial period — from the mutual curiosity displayed by the early interlocutors Bennelong and Bungaree of Sydney, to outright hostility of Pemulwuy and Windradyne of the Sydney region, and Yagan around Perth. Bennelong and a companion became the first Australians to sail to Europe, where they met King George III. Bungaree accompanied the explorer Matthew Flinders on the first circumnavigation of Australia. Pemulwuy was accused of the first killing of a white settler in 1790, and Windradyne resisted early British expansion beyond the Blue Mountains.
With the establishment of European settlement and its subsequent expansion, the Indigenous populations were progressively forced into neighbouring territories, or subsumed into the new political entities of the Australian colonies. Violent conflict between Indigenous peoples and European settlers, described by some historians as frontier wars, arose out of this expansion: by the late 19th century, many Indigenous populations had been forcibly relocated to land reserves and missions. The nature of many of these land reserves and missions enabled disease to spread quickly and many were closed as resident numbers dropped, with the remaining residents being moved to other land reserves and missions in the 20th century.
According to the historian Geoffrey Blainey, in Australia during the colonial period: "In a thousand isolated places there were occasional shootings and spearings. Even worse, smallpox, measles, influenza and other new diseases swept from one Aboriginal camp to another ... The main conqueror of Aborigines was to be disease and its ally, demoralisation".
From the 1830s, colonial governments established the now controversial offices of the Protector of Aborigines in an effort to conduct government policy towards them. Christian churches sought to convert Aborigines, and were often used by government to carry out welfare and assimilation policies. Colonial churchmen such as Sydney's first Catholic archbishop, John Bede Polding, strongly advocated for Aboriginal rights and dignity and prominent Aboriginal activist Noel Pearson, who was raised at a Lutheran mission in Cape York, has written that Christian missions throughout Australia's colonial history "provided a haven from the hell of life on the Australian frontier while at the same time facilitating colonisation".
The Coniston massacre, which took place near the Coniston cattle station in the then Territory of Central Australia (now the Northern Territory) from 14 August to 18 October 1928, was the last known officially sanctioned massacre of Indigenous Australians and one of the last events of the Australian Frontier Wars.
The Caledon Bay crisis of 1932-34 saw one of the last incidents of violent interaction on the "frontier" of Indigenous and non-indigenous Australia, which began when the spearing of Japanese poachers who had been molesting Yolngu women was followed by the killing of a policeman. As the crisis unfolded, national opinion swung behind the Aboriginal people involved, and the first appeal on behalf of an Indigenous Australian to the High Court of Australia was launched. Following the crisis, the anthropologist Donald Thompson was dispatched by the government to live among the Yolngu. Elsewhere around this time, activists like Sir Douglas Nicholls were commencing their campaigns for Aboriginal rights within the established Australian political system and the age of frontier conflict closed.
Frontier encounters in Australia were not universally negative. Positive accounts of Aboriginal customs and encounters are also recorded in the journals of early European explorers, who often relied on Aboriginal guides and assistance: Charles Sturt employed Aboriginal envoys to explore the Murray-Darling; the lone survivor of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition, John King, was helped by local Aborigines, and the famous tracker Jackey Jackey accompanied his ill-fated friend Edmund Kennedy to Cape York. Respectful studies were conducted by such as Walter Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen in their renowned anthropological study The Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899); and by Donald Thompson of Arnhem Land (c.1935-1943). In inland Australia, the skills of Aboriginal stockmen became highly regarded and in the 20th century, Aboriginal stockmen like Vincent Lingiari became national figures in their campaigns for better pay and conditions.
1938 was an important year for Indigenous rights campaigning. With the participation of leading indigenous activists like Douglas Nicholls, the Australian Aborigines Advancement League organised a protest "Day of Mourning" to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British in Australia and launched its campaign for full citizenship rights for all Aborigines. In the 1940s, the conditions of life for Aborigines could be very poor. A permit system restricted movement and work opportunities for many Aboriginal people. In the 1950s, the government pursued a policy of "assimilation" which sought to achieve full citizenship rights for Aborigines but also wanted them to adopt the mode of life of other Australians (which very often was assumed to require suppression of cultural identity).
In 1962, Robert Menzies' Commonwealth Electoral Act provided that all Indigenous people should have the right to enrol and vote at federal elections (prior to this, indigenous people in Queensland, Western Australia and "wards of the state" in the Northern Territory had been excluded from voting unless they were ex-servicemen). In 1965, Queensland became the last state to confer state voting rights on Aboriginal people, whereas In South Australia Aboriginal men had had the vote since the 1850s and Aboriginal women since the 1890s. A number of South Australian Aboriginal women took part in the vote selecting candidates for the constitutional conventions of the 1890s. The 1967 referendum was held and overwhelmingly approved to amend the Constitution, removing discriminatory references and giving the national parliament the power to legislate specifically for Indigenous Australians.
In the mid-1960s, one of the earliest Aboriginal graduates from the University of Sydney, Charles Perkins, helped organise freedom rides into parts of Australia to expose discrimination and inequality. In 1966, the Gurindji people of Wave Hill station (owned by the Vestey Group) commenced strike action led by Vincent Lingiari in a quest for equal pay and recognition of land rights.
From the 1960s, Australian writers began to re-assess European assumptions about Aboriginal Australia – with works including Alan Moorehead's The Fatal Impact (1966) and Geoffrey Blainey's landmark history Triumph of the Nomads (1975). In 1968, anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner described the lack of historical accounts of relations between Europeans and Aborigines as "the great Australian silence". Historian Henry Reynolds argues that there was a "historical neglect" of the Aborigines by historians until the late 1960s. Early commentaries often tended to describe Aborigines as doomed to extinction following the arrival of Europeans. William Westgarth’s 1864 book on the colony of Victoria observed; "the case of the Aborigines of Victoria confirms …it would seem almost an immutable law of nature that such inferior dark races should disappear."
Indigenous Australians began to take up representation in Australian parliaments during the 1970s. In 1971 Neville Bonner of the Liberal Party was appointed by the Queensland Parliament to replace a retiring senator, becoming the first Aborigine in Federal Parliament. In 1976, Sir Douglas Nicholls was appointed Governor of South Australia, becoming the first Aborigine to hold vice-regal office in Australia. Aden Ridgeway of the Australian Democrats served as a senator during the 1990s, but no indigenous person was elected to the House of Representatives, until West Australian Liberal Ken Wyatt, in August 2010.
In 1992, the High Court of Australia handed down its decision in the Mabo Case, declaring the previous legal concept of terra nullius to be invalid. That same year, Prime Minister Paul Keating said in his Redfern Park Speech that European settlers were responsible for the difficulties Australian Aboriginal communities continued to face: "We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice". In 1999 Parliament passed a Motion of Reconciliation drafted by Prime Minister John Howard and Aboriginal Senator Aden Ridgeway naming mistreatment of Indigenous Australians as the most "blemished chapter in our international history".
A great many Indigenous Australians have been prominent in sport and the arts in recent decades and Aboriginal art styles appreciated and embraced by the wider population. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920–1995) was a famous Aboriginal poet, writer and rights activist credited with publishing the first Aboriginal book of verse: We Are Going (1964). Sally Morgan's novel My Place was considered a breakthrough memoir in terms of bringing indigenous stories to wider notice. 1976's The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith directed by Fred Schepisi was an award winning historical drama from a book by Thomas Keneally about the tragic story of an Aboriginal Bushranger. In 1973 Arthur Beetson became the first Indigenous Australian to captain his country in any sport when he first led the Australian National Rugby League team, the Kangaroos. Olympic gold medalist Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame at the 2000 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Sydney.
The Stolen Generations were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The removals of those referred to as "half-caste" children were conducted in the period between approximately 1905 and 1967, although in some places mixed-race children were still being taken into the 1970s. Official government estimates are that in certain regions between one in ten and one in three Indigenous Australian children were forcibly taken from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970.
In April 2000, the Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron, presented a report in the Australian Parliament that questioned whether there had been a "Stolen Generation", arguing that only 10% of Aboriginal children had been removed, and they did not constitute an entire "generation". The report received media attention and there were protests against the claimed racism in this statement, and was countered by comparing use of this terminology to the World War 2 Lost Generation which also did not comprise an entire generation. On 13 February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presented an apology for the "Stolen Generation" as a motion in Parliament.
In response to the Little Children are Sacred Report the Howard Government launched the Northern Territory National Emergency Response in 2007, to reduce child molestation, domestic violence and substance abuse in remote Indigenous communities. The measures of the response which have attracted most criticism comprise the exemption from the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the compulsory acquisition of an unspecified number of prescribed communities (Measure 5) and the partial abolition of the permit system (Measure 10). These have been interpreted as undermining important principles and parameters established as part of the legal recognition of indigenous land rights in Australia.
The intervention, widely condemned as racist, failed to produce a single child abuse conviction in its first six years Professor James Anaya, a United Nations Special Rapporteur, alleged in 2010 that the policy was "racially discriminating" because measures like banning alcohol and pornography and quarantining a percentage of welfare income for the purchase of essential goods represented a limitation on "individual autonomy". The Rudd Government, the Opposition and a number of prominent indigenous activists condemned Anaya's allegation. Central Australian Aboriginal leader Bess Price criticised the UN for not sending a female repporteur and said that Abaya had been led around by opponents of the intervention to meet with opponents of the intervention.
In the early 21st century, much of Indigenous Australia continued to suffer lower standards of health and education than non-indigenous Australia. In 2007, the Close the Gap campaign was launched by Olympic champions Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe with the aim of achieving Indigenous health equality within 25 years.
Early British and Irish settlers
In the early decades of the establishment of British colonies in Australia, attitudes to race were imported from the British Isles. The ethnic mix of the early colonists consisted mainly of the four nationalities of the British Isles (England, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh), but also included some Jewish and black African convicts. Sectarianism, particularly anti-Irish-Catholic sentiment was initially enshrined in law, reflecting the difficult position of Irish people within the British Empire. One-tenth of all the convicts who came to Australia on the First Fleet were Catholic and at least half of them were born in Ireland. With Ireland often in revolt against British rule, the Irish enthusiasts of Australia faced surveillance and were denied the public practice of their religion in the early decades of settlement.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie served as the last autocratic Governor of New South Wales, from 1810 to 1821 and had a leading role in the social and economic development of New South Wales which saw it transition from a penal colony to a budding free society. He sought good relations with the Aborigines and upset British government opinion by treating emancipists as equal to free-settlers. Soon after, the reformist attorney general, John Plunkett, sought to apply Enlightenment principles to governance in the colony, pursuing the establishment of equality before the law, first by extending jury rights to emancipists, then by extending legal protections to convicts, assigned servants and Aborigines. Plunkett twice charged the colonist perpetrators of the Myall Creek massacre of Aborigines with murder, resulting in a conviction and his landmark Church Act of 1836 disestablished the Church of and established legal equality between Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians and later Methodists.
While elements of sectarianism and anti- sentiment persisted into the 20th century in Australia, the integration of the Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh nationalities was one of the first notable successes of Australian immigration policy and set a pattern for later migrant intakes of suspicion of minorities giving way to acceptance.
The four nationalities of the British Isles continued to comprise the great majority of immigrants to Australia for some decades until the Australian goldrushes saw a massive surge in multinational immigration to Australia. Other than from Britain, immigrants came from continental Europe, North America and China. The Colony of Victoria’s population grew rapidly, from 76,000 in 1850 to 530,000 by 1859. Discontent arose amongst diggers almost immediately, particularly on the crowded Victorian fields. The causes of this were the colonial government’s administration of the diggings and the gold licence system. Following a number of protests and petitions for reform, violence erupted at Ballarat in late 1854.
Competition in the goldfields, labour disputes and Australian nationalism created an environment of racial antagonism during the second half of the 19th century. The Chinese mining population in particular was to suffer from racial resentment on the mining fields and the Australian colonies began to introduce restrictive immigration policies.
Early Asian immigration
The Australian colonies had passed restrictive legislation as early as the 1860s, directed specifically at Chinese immigrants. Objections to the Chinese originally arose because of their large numbers, their religious beliefs, the widespread perception that they worked harder, longer and far more cheaply than European Australians and the view that they habitually engaged in gambling and smoking opium. It was also felt they would lower living standards, threaten democracy and that their numbers could expand into a "yellow tide". Later, a popular cry was raised against increasing numbers of Japanese (following Japan’s victory over China in the Sino-Japanese War), South Asians and Kanakas (South Pacific islanders). Popular support for White Australia, always strong, was bolstered at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 when the Australian delegation led the fight to defeat a Japanese-sponsored racial-equality amendment to the League of Nations Covenant. The Japanese amendment was closely tied to their claim on German New Guinea and so was very largely refuted on security grounds.
Most of the early Australian Chinese population consisted of Cantonese-speaking migrants from Guangzhou and Taishan as well as some from Fujian. They migrated to Australia during the gold rush period of the 1850s. Marriage records show that between the 1850s and the start of the twentieth century, there were about 2000 legal marriages between white women and migrant Chinese men in Australia’s eastern colonies, probably with similar numbers involved in de facto relationships of various kinds.
In the late 19th century Japanese girls and women were sold into prostitution and trafficked from Nagasaki and Kumamoto to cities like Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore and then sent to other places in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and Western Australia, they were called Karayuki-san. In Western Australia these Japanese prostitutes plied their trade and also entered into other activities, a lot of them wed Chinese men and Japanese men as husbands and others some took Malay, Filipino and European partners.
Chinese miners in 19th century Australia used white European prostitutes to satisfy their sexual needs since there were only a few Chinese women around, there were 2 Chinese women to 800 Chinese men on the Riverina camps in 1883 while there were 37 prostitutes and 36 of the Chinese men were married to European women.
Legislators complained about the 'right to marry' between Chinese men and white women such as in 1888 with Henry Parkes and statements were said by others in the legislature such as 'The question is whether we would desire that our sisters or our brothers should be married into any of these races to which we object' by Prime Minister J. C. Watson of the Labor party in 1901 and 'We don't want them to marry our white women' by Free Trader Mr Lonsdale and 'No we want them to go back to China and marry there' by Protectionist Alfred Deakin during a debate in the House of Representatives.
Australia only saw a low number of Chinese women arrive and men of all races were allowed to use the local Australia prostitutes so there was no need for Chinese to bring Chinese prostitutes unlike in California. Australia never banned interracial marriage so Chinese men were able to marry people of any race, which within half a decade of the gold rush resulted in fifty white women and Chinese men marrying each other in Victoria while there were only five white women and Chinese male marriages in San Francisco, California, who were married out of state.
A Chinese man Sun San Lung and his son by his white European Australian wife Lizzie in Castlemaine returned to China in 1887 for a trip after marrying a second white wife after Lizzie died, but they were blocked from coming back to Melbourne, Australia. Chinese men were found living with 73 opium addicted Australian white women when Quong Tart surveyed the goldfields for opium addicts, and a lot of homeless women abused by husbands and prostitutes ran away and married Chinese men in Sydney after taking refuge in Chinese opium dens in gambling houses, Reverend Francis Hopkins said that 'A Chinaman's Anglo-Saxon wife is almost his God, a European's is his slave. This is the reason why so many girls transfer their affections to the almond-eyed Celestials.' when giving the reason why these women married Chinese men. After the gold mining ended some Chinese remained in Australia and started families, one youthful Englishwoman married a Chinese in 1870 in Bendigo and the Golden Dragon Museum is run by his great-grandson Russell Jack.
The Australian sniper Billy Sing was the son of a Chinese father and an English mother. His parents were John Sing (c. 1842–1921), a drover from Shanghai, China, and Mary Ann Sing (née Pugh; c. 1857–unknown), a nurse from Kingswinford, Staffordshire, England.
White men in Australia were afraid of the sexual and racial threats they thought came from Pacific islander and Asian men and it was written that the Chinaman "marries, or cohabits with the mean white woman, jostles and competes with the white man, and when it comes to labouring in the tropics, supplants him." in the Sydney Morning Herald, with interracial sex and prostitution booming in Northern Australia because of the racial sexual imbalance due to the fact that Australia hardly ever permitted the immigration of non-white women.
In Australia Chinese wives were only present with under 1% of Chinese men in the early 20th century, white women was seen as being threatened by Asian men with the newspaper The Bulletin "wondering how the Chows do it!" when pondering why white women were being taken by Chinese men and one of their reporters saw "and found, out of 15 girls present, six half-caste Chows and a half-caste Maori." when he went to interior Queensland to Longreach to participate in a dance, Australians were dismayed that the law permitted the marriage of white women to Chinese men, white women who married Chinese or engaged in sexual relations with them were seen as degenerate and the Vagrancy Acts were used to prosecute white prostitutes who had Chinese men as their clients.
The police arrested on charges of vagrancy 22 white women for engaging in unions with Chinese in 1910 in Western Australia and sentenced both the Chinese men and white women to hard labour for 3 to 6 months, Chinese men were sought out by some white women because while 'Aussie' men were "hard drinking" and "rough" Chinese were seen as sober, hard working and having "values of respect", it was through contacts such as social and business where Chinese men met and married white women from 'respectable' backgrounds, unlike what some people suggested like C.F. Yong who claimed that the women were former prison inmates or 'all drunks'.
Among the immigrants coming to northern Australia were Melanesian, South-East Asian, and Chinese who were almost all men, along with the Japanese, who were the only anomaly in that they included women, racist Australians who subscribed to white supremacy were grateful for and condoned the immigration of Japanese prostitutes since these non-white labourers satisfied their sexual needs with the Japanese instead of white since they didn't want white women having sex with the non-white males, and in Australia the definition of white was even narrowed down to people of Anglo Saxon British origin. Italian and French women were also considered "foreign" prostitutes alongside Japanese women and were supported by the police and governments in Western Australia to ply their trade since these women would service "coloured" men and act as a safeguard for British white Anglo Saxon women with the Honourable R.H. Underwood, a politician in western Australia, celebrating the fact that there were many Italian, Japanese, and French prostitutes in western Australia in an address to the Legislative Assembly in 1915.
In Western and Eastern Australia, gold mining Chinese men were serviced by Japanese Karayuki-san prostitutes and in Northern Australia around the sugarcane, pearling and mining industries the Japanese prostitutes serviced Kanakas, Malays, and Chinese, these women arrived in Australia or America via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore where they were instructed in prostitution, they originated from Japan's poor farming areas and the Australian colonial officials approved of allowing in Japanese prostitutes in order to sexual service "coloured' men, otherwise they thought that white women would be raped if the Japanese weren't available.
Port towns experienced benefits to their economies by the presence of Japanese brothels.
In eastern Australia Chinese men married European women, and Japanese prostitutes were embraced by the officials in Queensland since they were assumed to help stop white women having sex with nonwhite men, Italian, French, and Japanese prostitutes plied their trade in Western Australia.
During the 1870s the New Zealand West Coast and Otago gold mining fields experienced migration of Irish prostitutes from Victoria in Australia.
On the goldfields Japanese prostitutes were attacked by anti-asian white Australians who wanted them to leave, with Raymond Radclyffe in 1896 and Rae Frances reporting on men who demanded that the Japanese prostitutes be expelled from gold fields.
Japanese women prostitutes in Australia were smuggled there and it was the 3rd most widespread profession, it was said that they were "a service essential to the economic growth of the north", "made life more palatable for European and Asian men who worked in pearling, mining and pastoral industries" and it was written that "The supply of Japanese women for the Kanaka demand is less revolting and degrading than would be the case were it met by white women" by the Queensland Police Commissioner.
Around Melbourne's Little Bourke Street precinct and Sydney's Lower George Street grew majority Chinese male enclaves and in total in Australia there were 50,000 Chinese labourers and ministers by 1870, with opium dens being a standard thing found around the Chinese ghettos, the Chinese men were married by poor white women or serviced by poor white women prostitutes, who filled the missing female niche in the Chinese community and this led to condemnation of the white women as opium users and inflamed anti-Chinese sentiment.
The sexual imbalance in the Chinese community with the preponderance of men and scarcity of women led to fears among white Australians over white women engaging in sexual unions with Chinese men since Chinese opium dens in towns and cities were visited by white women prostitutes and some Chinese men married white women and this led to the Victoria Buckland River and New South Wales Back Creek riots.
Between 1890-1894 Singapore received 3,222 Japanese women who were trafficked from Japan by the Japanese man Muraoka Iheiji, before being trafficked to Singapore or further destinations, for a few months, the Japanese women would be held in Hong Kong, even though the Japanese government tried banning Japanese prostitutes from leaving Japan in 1896 the measure failed to stop the trafficking of Japanese women and a ban in Singapore against importing the women failed too, and in the 1890s Australia received immigration in the form of Japanese women working as prostitutes, in 1896, there were 200 Japanese prostitutes there, in Darwin, 19 Japanese women were found by the Japanese official H. Sato in 1889, from Nagasaki the Japanese man Takada Tokujiro had trafficked 5 of the women via Hong Kong, he "had sold one to a Malay barber for £50, two to a Chinese at £40 each, one he had kept as his concubine; the fifth he was working as a prostitute". Sato said that the women were living "a shameful life to the disgrace of their countrymen'.
Around areas of work such as ports, mines, and the pastoral industry, numerous European and Chinese men patronized Japanese prostitutes such as Matsuwe Otana.
During the late 1880s to the 20th century Australian brothels were filled with hundreds of Japanese women, those Japanese overseas women and girl prostitutes were called karayuki-san which meant 'gone to China'.
Japanese prostitutes initially showed up in 1887 in Australia and were a major component of the prostitution industry on the colonial frontiers in Australia such as parts of Queensland, northern and western Australia and the British Empire and Japanese Empire's growth were tied in with the karayuki-san, in the late 19th century Japan's impoverished farming islands provided the girls who became karayuki-san and were shipped to the Pacific and South-East Asia, the volcanic and mountainous terrain of Kyushu was bad for agriculture so parents sold their daughters, some of them seven years old to "flesh traders" (zegen) in th prefectures of Nagasaki and Kumamoto, four-fifths of the girls were involuntarily trafficked while only one-fifth left of their own will.
The voyages the traffickers transported these women on had terrible conditions with some girls suffocating as they were hidden on parts of the ship or almost starving to death, the girls who lived were then taught how to perform as prostitutes in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore where they then were sent off to other places including Australia.
A Queensland Legislative Assembly member in 1907 reported that Japanese prostitutes in the small town of Charters Towers lived in bad conditions while in 1896 in the larger town of Marble Bar in Western Australia Albert Calvert reported that the conditions in Japanese brothels were good and comfortable.
A parliamentary commission was held regarding Sydney's Chinese gambling which brought white European women to testify on 14 December 1891, such as 27-year-old Minnie, who had long term relationships with two Chinese men whom treated her kindly after she engaged in "casual" sexual relations with multiple Chinese men.
Minnie ended up having sex with Chinese men after meeting them with friends who were also doing it, after she ran away from an abusive alcoholic husband when she was 16, seven other women were interviewed besides Minnie, girls and women escaped a dangerous street life by taking sanctuary in the inner city and The Rocks with the Chinese, another woman interviewed was Hannah who escaped her jailed brutal European husband to go live with a Chinese man, explaining that 'I thought it was better to have one man than be knocking about the streets with everybody', since the busband's 'people would not look after me', and Minnie said, 'I think fully half of them come to the Chinese when they have nowhere else to go', and she was asked 'Is it because the Chinese are kind to them?' she said 'That is the main thing, and for the sake of a home.'
Some of the European husbands and partners of the women tried forcing them to work as prostitutes to 'knock about the streets' and take the money they earned or were physically violent towards the women, which led the women to go to the Chinese who provided them with houses, Pauline explained "I would sooner live with a Chinaman than a white man. The Chinamen know how to treat a woman.' after her European husband tried to make her be a prostitute, a woman named Maud said 'he tries to please me, and I try to please him' and a woman named Adelaide loved and wanted to marry a young Chinese man but his father forced him to break off the relationship, another two women interviewed were Ellen A and Ellen B.
Some of these women still engaged in prostitution with multiple other Chinese men even after they formed a relationship with a single Chinese man, these women were proud of being wives of the Chinese and their well maintained houses, saying they were 'clean and tidy' and the commissioners even said they were 'clean and even tastefully furnished', and Ellen B said 'You always see all the Chinese women's houses clean and comfortable', 'always plenty to eat and drink' and Minnie said she was 'living respectably with a Chinaman', the women also viewed non-white men of different races in a different light, saying that the 'dark' men like Lascars were different from the Chinese and Ellen B said 'there is not a girl with the Chinese that cares about a dark fellow.'
The commission admitted that 'they have some reason to be satisfied, as they say they are, with their surroundings. The probability is that they would be on the streets of Sydney if they were not the mistresses of industrious Chinamen.' and admitted that without the opium problem that 'it would be impossible to say that these, among the most unfortunate class of women in our midst, had not improved their surroundings by crossing the racial line' and 'there is not ground for suspicion that our alien population is now a danger to youthful virtue.' so the commission only ended up advocating tougher anti-opium measures, the women also rejected the claim by Inspector Richard Seymour in 1875 that opium rendered girls unconscious and vulnerable to sexual activity, making it clear that opium smokers were conscious during the smoking. During an Inquiry in 1875 it was reported by the police that the Chinese were being serviced by young girls.
A European man originally impregnated Ellen B in Melbourne and she then moved to Beechworth, Albury, and finally Sydney after she gave birth, arriving at an Anglican church run "Church Home" which was for "fallen women" where a woman there introduced her to the Chinese.
Chinese men in The Rocks were sexually serviced by 40-50 European women, these women were not 'mistresses' who lived with a single Chinese man like the women interviewed by the commission but they were full-time prostitutes. The commission admitted that 'The European women who lived as prostitutes amongst the Chinese appear, in nearly every case, to have fled to their present haunts as to refuges from the brutality of men of their own race. They had lost caste; they had taken to drink; they were the drudges of larrikins who ill-treated them; some had been in gaol; none were enjoying the protection of decent homes. So, far the lack of better prospects, they sought the Chinamen, who at least pay them well and treat them kindly.' and these prostitutes were found in Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales in the countryside amongst the Chinese settlements. A lot of the prostitutes were Irish Catholic girls and women in colonial Australia.
In late 1878, there were 181 marriages between women of European descent and Chinese men as well as 171 such couples cohabiting without matrimony, resulting in the birth of 586 children of Sino-European descent. Such a rate of intermarriage between Chinese Australians and white Australians was to continue until the 1930s.
White Australia policy
Following the establishment of autonomous parliaments, a rise in nationalism and improvements in transportation, the Australian colonies voted to unite in a Federation, which came into being in 1901. The Australian Constitution and early parliaments established one of the most progressive governmental systems on the earth at that time, with male and female suffrage and series of checks and balances built into the governmental framework. National security fears had been one of the chief motivators for the union and legislation was quickly enacted to restrict non-European immigration to Australia - the foundation of the White Australia policy - and voting rights for Aborigines were denied across most states.
Australia's official World War One historian Charles Bean defined the early intentions of the policy as "a vehement effort to maintain a high Western standard of economy, society and culture (necessitating at that stage, however it might be camouflaged, the rigid exclusion of Oriental peoples)."
The new Parliament quickly moved to restrict immigration to maintain Australia's "British character", and the Pacific Island Labourers Bill and the Immigration Restriction Bill were passed shortly before parliament rose for its first Christmas recess. Nevertheless, the Colonial Secretary in Britain made it clear that a race based immigration policy would run "contrary to the general conceptions of equality which have ever been the guiding principle of British rule throughout the Empire", so the Barton Government conceived of the "language dictation test", which would allow the government, at the discretion of the minister, to block unwanted migrants by forcing them to sit a test in "any European language". Race had already been established as a premise for exclusion among the colonial parliaments, so the main question for debate was who exactly the new Commonwealth ought to exclude, with the Labor Party rejecting Britain's calls to placate the populations of its non-white colonies and allow "aboriginal natives of Asia, Africa, or the islands thereof". There was opposition from Queensland and its sugar industry to the proposals of the Pacific Islanders Bill to exclude "Kanaka" laborers, however Barton argued that the practice was "veiled slavery" that could lead to a "negro problem" similar to that in the United States and the Bill was passed.
Demise of the White Australia policy
The restrictive measures established by the first parliament gave way to multi-ethnic immigration policies only after the Second World War, with the "dictation test" itself being finally abolished in 1958 by the Menzies Government.
The Menzies Government instigated migrants over all others since the time of Australian Federation in 1901 and abolished restrictions on voting rights for Aborigines, which had persisted in some jurisdictions. In 1950 External Affairs Minister Percy Spender instigated the Colombo Plan, under which students from Asian countries were admitted to study at Australian universities, then in 1957 non-Europeans with 15 years' residence in Australia were allowed to become citizens. In a watershed legal reform, a 1958 revision of the Migration Act introduced a simpler system for entry and abolished the "dictation test" which had permitted the exclusion of migrants on the basis of their ability to take down a dictation offered in any European language. Immigration Minister, Sir Alexander Downer, announced that 'distinguished and highly qualified Asians' might immigrate. Restrictions continued to be relaxed through the 1960s in the lead up to the Holt Government's watershed Migration Act, 1966.
Holt's government introduced the Migration Act 1966, which effectively dismantled the White Australia policy and increased access to non-European migrants, including refugees fleeing the Vietnam War. Holt also called the 1967 Referendum which removed the discriminatory clause in the Australian Constitution which excluded Aboriginal Australians from being counted in the census;– the referendum was one of the few to be overwhelmingly endorsed by the Australian electorate (over 90% voted 'yes').
The legal end of the White Australia Policy is usually placed in 1973, when the Whitlam Labor government implemented a series of amendments preventing the enforcement of racial aspects of the immigration law. These amendments:
- Legislated that all migrants, regardless of origin, be eligible to obtain citizenship after three years of permanent residence.
- Ratified all international agreements relating to immigration and race.
- Issued policy to totally disregard race as a factor in selecting migrants.
The 1975 Racial Discrimination Act made the use of racial criteria for any official purpose illegal (with the exception of census forms).
Issues in contemporary Australia
This section may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. (March 2012)
Public planning to counter cultural racism was ahead of its time in Western Sydney, a suburban region with a long history of migrant settlement. Many of its attempts to build an inclusive "cultural foundation" have been picked up by state governments, including council-funded social clubs for seniors, the provision of community services in major community languages, and the securing of places of worship through rezoning. All of these initiatives are aimed at public involvement rather than antiracist "integrating" strategies.
A 2003 Paper by health economist Gavin Mooney said that "Government institutions in Australia are racist". The paper evidenced this opinion by stating that the Aboriginal Medical Service was underfunded and under supported by government.
In 2007, What's the Score? A survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian sport conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) said that "racial abuse and vilification is commonplace in Australian sport... despite concerted efforts to stamp it out". The report said that Aboriginal and other ethnic groups are under-represented in Australian sport, and suggests they are turned off organised sport because they fear racial vilification. Despite the finding, indigenous participation in Australian sport is widespread. In 2009, about 90,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were participating in Australian Rules Football alone and the Australian Football League (AFL) encouraged their participation through the Kickstart Indigenous programs "as the vehicle to improve the quality of life in Indigenous communities, not only in sport, but in the areas of employment, education and health outcomes". Similarly, Australia's second most popular football code encourages participation through events like the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout and the Indigenous All Stars Team.
Journalist John Pilger blames racism for the state of Aboriginal disadvantage in Australia. As noted by Professor Colin Tatz in an interview with Pilger,[vague] in relation to an IOC representative who was seemingly unaware of Aboriginal socio-economic conditions when sent to Australia to see whether or not it was a "fit and proper country" for hosting the Olympics:
On the salt pan at Lombadina, Aborigines play with two saplings stuck in the ground. If he had inspected these conditions, he would have been looking at third- and fourth-world sporting facilities. He would have seen Aborigines kicking a piece of leather stuffed with paper because they don’t possess a single football or have access to the kind of sports facilities that every white Australian takes for granted, even in poor working-class suburbs where there is a municipal pool, a municipal ground, a cricket pitch or a tennis court or a park of some sort – these things are totally absent in 95 per cent of Aboriginal communities.— Professor Colin Tatz, in The New Rulers of the World
Since the end of World War II, Australia has had a programme of mass immigration that has led to an increase in the cultural diversity of its people. Some academics[who?] have argued that since the 1970s a policy of multiculturalism have played an important role in the relative peacefulness of Australian society.
After filming in Australia as part of The Daily Show with John Stewart, John Oliver remarked, "Australia turns out to be a sensational place, albeit one of the most comfortably racist places I’ve ever been in. They’ve really settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper." In a 2013 Eureka Street article, writer Michael Mullins supported the claims by citing examples such as Harry Connick Jr.'s shock in 2009 at seeing "Black Faces" blackface skit on Australian television and dog whistle terms used in political discourse.
Pauline Hanson and One Nation
Pauline Hanson was elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 1996 and lost her seat in 1998. She helped form the One Nation Party, which between 1998–2002 won a number of lower House seats in State Parliamentary elections in Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia. In her 1998 maiden speech to Parliament, Hanson called for the abolition of multiculturalism and said that "reverse racism" was being applied to "mainstream Australians" who were not entitled to the same welfare and government funding as minority groups. She said that Australia was in danger of being "swamped by Asians", and that these immigrants "have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate". Hanson also argued that rural and regional Australia was being neglected by government and called for a return to protectionist economic policies. She was widely accused of racism. In 2006, as an ex-politician, she achieved notoriety by asserting that Africans bring disease into Australia. In 2016, she was re-elected to the Australian Senate, and as of 18 May 2019, One Nation holds two seats in the Australian Senate.
The Cronulla riots of 2005 were a series of racially motivated mob confrontations which originated in and around Cronulla, a beachfront suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. Soon after the riot, ethnically motivated violent incidents occurred in several other Sydney suburbs.
On Sunday, 11 December 2005, approximately 5,000 people gathered to protest against alleged incidents of assaults and intimidatory behaviour by groups of Middle Eastern-looking youths from the suburbs of South Western Sydney. The crowd initially assembled without incident, but violence broke out after a large segment of the mostly white crowd chased a man of Middle Eastern appearance into a hotel and two other youths of Middle Eastern appearance were assaulted on a train. One of the "white" youths, who was notoriously known for assaulting police officers, went by the name of 'Cake J'.
The following nights saw several retaliatory violent assaults in the communities near Cronulla and Maroubra, with large gatherings around south western Sydney, and an unprecedented police lock-down of Sydney beaches and surrounding areas, between Wollongong and Newcastle.
SBS / Al Jazeera (for Al Jazeera) explores these events in 2013 (2015) four-part documentary series "Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl", specifically in last two episodes, "Episode three, 2000-2005" and "Episode four, 2005-present".
2005 UN report
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in its report SMH, released in 2005 was complimentary on improvements in race-related issues since its previous report five years prior, namely:
- the criminalising of acts and incitement of racial hatred in most Australian States and Territories
- progress in the economic, social and cultural rights by indigenous peoples
- programmes and practices among the police and the judiciary, aimed at reducing the number of indigenous juveniles entering the criminal justice system
- the adoption of a Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society to ensure that government services are provided in a way that is sensitive to the language and cultural needs of all Australians
- and the numerous human rights education programmes developed by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).
The committee expressed concern about the abolishment of ATSIC; proposed reforms to HREOC that may limit its independence; the practical barriers Indigenous peoples face in succeeding in claims for native title; a lack of legislation criminalising serious acts or incitement of racial hatred in the Commonwealth, the State of Tasmania and the Northern Territory; and the inequities between Indigenous peoples and others in the areas of employment, housing, longevity, education and income.
Assaults against Indian students
Australia is a popular and longstanding destination for international students. End of year data for 2009 found that of the 631,935 international students enrolled in Australia, drawn from more than 217 different countries, some 120,913 were from India, making them the second largest group. That same year, protests were conducted in Melbourne by Indian students and widescale media coverage in India alleged that a series of robberies and assaults against Indian students should be ascribed to racism in Australia. According to a report tabled by the Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry, in all some 23 incidents were found to have involved "racial overtones" such as "anti Indian remarks". In response, the Australian Institute of Criminology in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Immigration and Citizenship sought to quantify the extent to which Indians were the subject of crime in Australia and found overall that international students as recorded victims of crime in Australia, were either "less likely" or "as likely" to be victims of physical assault and other theft, but that there was a "substantial over-representation of Indian students in retail/commercial robberies". The report found however that the proficiency of Indians in the English language and their consequent higher engagement in employment in the services sector ("including service stations, convenience stores, taxi drivers and other employment that typically involves working late night shifts alone and come with an increased risk of crime, either at the workplace or while travelling to and from work") was a more likely explanation for the crime rate differential than was any "racial motivation".
On 30 May 2009, Indian students protested against what they claimed were racist attacks, blocking streets in central Melbourne. Thousands of students gathered outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital where one of the victims was admitted. The protest, however, was called off early on the next day morning after the protesters accused police of "ramrodding" them to break up their sit-in. On 4 June 2009, China expressed concern over the matter – Chinese are the largest foreign student population in Australia with approximately 130,000 students. In light of this event, the Australian Government started a Helpline for Indian students to report such incidents. Australian High Commissioner to India John McCarthy said that there may have been an element of racism involved in some of the assaults reported upon Indians, but that they were mainly criminal in nature. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, termed these attacks "disturbing" and called for Australia to investigate the matters further. In the aftermath of these attacks, other investigations alleged racist elements in the Victorian police force.
However, in 2011, the Australian Institute of Criminology released a study entitled Crimes Against International Students:2005-2009. This found that over the period 2005-2009, international students were statistically less likely to be assaulted than the average person in Australia. Indian students experienced an average assault rate in some jurisdictions, but overall they experienced lower assault rates than the Australian average. They did, however, experience higher rates of robbery, overall. The study could not sample incidents of crime that were not reported. Additionally, multiple surveys of international students over the period of 2009-10 found a majority of Indian students felt safe.
Commentators[who?] have accused the Australian Government of racism in its approach to Asylum seekers in Australia. Both major parties support a ban on asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Australia operates the Pacific Solution which includes the relocation asylum seekers. Former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison described asylum seekers as 'illegal'. Social justice advocates and international organisations such as Amnesty International have condemned Australia's policies, with one describing them as 'an appeal to fear and racism'.
Legislation relating to racism
Racist legislation in Australian history
Some notable legislation which might be said to be based on racist theory:
- Immigration Restriction Act 1901, to prescribe where migrants to Australia were accepted from (this in part became the basis for the White Australia Policy.)
- Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 designed to facilitate the deportation of Pacific Island workers from Australia.
- Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 gave women the vote across all states, but allowed states to restrict voting rights for "natives".
Notable legislation that deals with racism, and other forms of discrimination:
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975 - Section 18D "does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith"
Anti-racist legislation in contemporary Australia
The following constituted important legal reforms in the movement towards racial equality:
- 1958 revision of the Migration Act, introduced a simpler system for entry and abolished the "dictation test".
- 1962 Commonwealth Electoral Act, provided that all Indigenous Australians should have the right to enrol and vote at federal elections (previously this right had been restricted in some states other than for Aboriginal ex-servicemen, who secured the right to vote in all states under 1949 legislation).
- Migration Act 1966, effectively dismantled the White Australia Policy and increased access to non-European migrants.
- Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, was a significant step in legal recognition of Aboriginal land ownership.
The following Australian Federal and State legislation relates to racism and discrimination:
- Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- Commonwealth Racial Hatred Act (1995)
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act (1986)
- New South Wales: Anti-Discrimination Act (1977)
- South Australia: Equal Opportunity Act (1984) and Racial Vilification Act (1996)
- Western Australia: Equal Opportunity Act (1984) and Criminal Code
- Australian Capital Territory: Discrimination Act (1991)
- Queensland: Anti-Discrimination Act (1991)
- Northern Territory: Anti-Discrimination Act (1992)
- Victoria: Equal Opportunity Act (1995) and Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
- Tasmania: Anti-Discrimination Act (1998)
Anti-racism organisations and initiatives
- All Together Now - imagines and delivers innovative and evidence-based projects that promote racial equity
- Democracy In Colour - a non-Government organisation that operates with the aim to eliminate structural racism in Australia
- Online Hate Prevention Institute - seeks ways of changing online systems to make them more effective in reducing the risks posed by online hate
- Racism: It Stops with me - a government campaign to invite all Australians to reflect on what they can do to counter racism wherever it happens
- Racism No Way - a NSW Department of Education resource for tackling racism in Australian schools
- List of massacres of Indigenous Australians
- Racism by country
- Racial Violence In Australia
- White privilege in Australia
- Institutional racism in Australia
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