Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From White Australia to Woomera

Have you ever wondered about the composition of Australian society in comparison to that of other countries?

Do you think we are one of the most multicultural societies on earth?

Have you felt unduly swayed by newspaper reports, and wanted to understand immigration more deeply?

Do you fear a "Muslim invasion"? Or perhaps an Asian invasion, or some other variation?

If so, this book may be for you. A rational, detailed and often dry 220 pages of analysis from an expert in the field, it will leave you with more information and (hopefully) fewer prejudices. Thanks to the White Australia policy, that existed until the 1970s, Australia became one of the most British societies outside the UK. This continues even to the present day, with 3/4 of the population speaking only English and describing themselves as Christian. James Jupp provides analysis of White Australia, the movement to multiculturalism, the policies of various governments, the need for immigration, and much more.

Amongst the most helpful aspects of this book are the author's definitions of racism and xenophobia. James Jupp writes "By 'racist', I mean a fairly complex position which argues that clearly identifiable races not only exist but are hierarchically graded." Racism is an ideology that views all members of a race as superior or inferior to members of another race. "By 'xenophobic', I mean a simpler psychological reaction to people who originate in a different homeland and who are believed to be physically or culturally different." Jupp argues that this is an almost universal reaction, but must be controlled in a civilised society. Xenophobia can include fear of another religion or language.

This is a secular book, but it has aroused all kinds of religious questions in me. What does responsible dominion, as taught in the Creation Mandate, mean for a country's immigration policy? What is a loving response to refugees? Should Christians advocate that all people "fit into" society and adopt Australian values? Should we support the evaluation of people primarily on the basis of their potential economic contribution to society? How can we, who know that fear and worry are expressions of lack of trust in God, fear Muslim people coming to Australia? Should we not rather view their prescence as an opportunity? I don't have the answers to these and many other questions. However, they need to be asked if Christians are to develop a loving and biblically based response to immigration.


  1. Actually, I think only about 2/3 of the population mark themselves Christian on the census nowadays (sadly).

    And according to the national census, 78% of people speak only English at home -- but that includes people like me, whose first language is something else.

    I've just visited Melbourne, which (praise God!) has more Greeks than any other city in the world except Athens and Thessalonica. I've never felt that Australia was a particularly "Anglo" country, and certainly not in Melbourne.

    As to the Christian response:
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

  2. Oh, ok. Statistics do change quickly, don't they? The book was published in 2002.

    I've found that chatting about this topic can quickly lead to disagreements! Terms can mean different things to different people. Often, I've found people make judgements about the composition of Australian society based on things like how many Asians they saw walking down a street in Sydney. I am somewhat the same, noting things like the fact that close to every person on my planes to and from Brissie was white.

    The large amount of British and Irish immigration over the years has made Australia a quite uniquely Anglo nation, at least up until recently. The majority of people are descended from English and Irish settlers. Immigration from Europe has (as you rightly point out) diversified this, and did so even before the 70s. However, immigration of different language and cultural groups has never yet been significant enough to challenge the dominance of the English language.

  3. We don't collect data on "ethnicity" of most Australians, for various reasons. But estimating based on Census data, I think the country is about 65% Anglo-Celtic, about 25% continental European, and about 10% non-European in origin.

    We have, however, encouraged children of immigrants to learn English. When the Dutch community in Kingston built a school, for example, it was an English-language school. This means it's hard to recognise non-Anglos like me!

    And (sometimes better than others) we've encouraged those 35% non-Anglos to feel "100% Australian", as we should. Victoria is running a good "All of Us" campaign at present.

  4. Yes, absolutely. The government's encouragement of English has made many non-Anglo Europeans (or at least their kids) invisible.

    I am surprised that the percentage of non-Europeans is that low. I didn't think it could be more than 20% though. This makes Australia an incredibly white place, in my opinion! That is what you'd expect, I guess, as the result of many years of government policy discriminating against anyone non-white.

    Personally, I think it is sad :(.