Race in Western Australia
"Without restriction, race purity could not be maintained. The inhabitants of Australia would quickly become a mixed breed, inferior probably to the residents of Central and South America. Australians do not like to contemplate the prospects of their descendants after a couple of generations being tainted with Chinese or other Asiatic blood, and probably minus every British characteristic. There are thousands of half-caste Chinese, Javanese, Malays and Aborigines in Port Darwin and the Northern Towns of Queensland. The northern portion of Australia is indeed a warning to the people of the rest of the Continent against that race contamination which the indiscriminate admission of coloured immigrants would sooner or later inevitably bring about." (John Kirwan, The Empire Review, 1904)Sir John Kirwan's racist beliefs were typical of the generation which made the Federation. The Commonwealth was built upon a White Australia policy which reflected the fear, ignorance and intolerance of the Australian people. It would be nearly seventy years before its immigration restrictions were totally abandoned.
Even after a hundred years of Federation, race is still a big issue in Western Australia. For much of the 20th century the State and its people discriminated against Aboriginal, non-English speaking and non-European people. It was the mass arrival of non-English speaking migrants from Europe following the Second World War, ironically intended to strengthen a white Australia, which ultimately began the process of encouraging cultural diversity.
There are many Western Australians who remember living under a White Australia Policy which was not totally abandoned until increased migration from the Asian region began in the 1970s. As a result Western Australians have become more multi-racial and a multi-cultural Western Australian identity has evolved through the combination of different racial and cultural traditions.
The State's past and present treatment of Aboriginal Western Australia remains an important issue. Aboriginal affairs are particularly relevant in Western Australia with its strong Aboriginal communities, as all levels of government attempt to resolve native title and lead the Australian people towards reconciliation with Australia's indigenous people.
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