During World War Two Australians finally realised just how vulnerable they were to enemy attacks. The reality of this possibility hit home hard when the Japanese attacked Darwin and when Japanese midget subs penetrated Sydney harbour. We now realised that our island was not an impenetrable fortress.
They government also realised that our country was dangerously under-populated. The fact was that we had too much space and only 7 million people living in it which once again made us very vulnerable to attack. The government realised something must be done. In 1947, during a historical speech made by the minister for immigration, Arthur Augustus Calwell announced that Australia was opening its doors to European immigrants, preferably British.
Refugees and immigrants from all over Europe rushed to apply for visas. While many different cultures migrated to Australia the two we are going to focus on are the Italians and the British.
At the conclusion of the war Italian soldiers and POW’s returned to a destroyed Italy. The only thing worse than the immense destruction was the human suffering. The displaced Italians sought refuge in communal camps while dreaming of escape to countries such as Canada, the USA and Australia.
Italy had been looking for an overseas country that would accept its unemployed, homeless Italians and when Australia opened her doors to them Italy’s President encouraged his people to “learn a foreign language and emigrate”.
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Meanwhile the Britain was also in ruins and although they had won the war, it had come at a big loss. Luckily though for the British, Australia was very keen for British refugees to make up a large part of Australia’s refugee take-in. In Arthur Augustus Calwell’s initial speech he said, “It is my hope that for every foreign migrant there will be ten people from the United Kingdom.”
So from the start it was obvious that ‘White Australia’ was the cornerstone of the immigration policy. Australia established schemes to attract immigrants from post war Britain and they created Australian Citizenship in 1948 so that ‘Australians’ were no longer British subjects.
Meanwhile, much stronger and stricter restrictions were imposed against the Italians. They were only permitted to immigrate if they already had close family already resident in Australia. The Italians suffered because they were not a priority group.
The British had been given assistance and had been allowed to bring their families with them into Australia. These rules did not apply to the Italians until 1969 when the government relaxed the rules providing they stayed in the country for a minimum of two years.
Although, it was still a huge cultural shock for Italian immigrants, coming out to a country with a different climate, customs, religion, language and food. All these factors and more made a lasting impression on the Italian immigrants. For many, the shock was too big and they were unable to adjust and returned to Italy.
Not only was it harder for Italian immigrants to get into the country, but once they were in they were at an immediate disadvantage to their British companions. Australia had not prepared for the sudden influx of immigrants and the Italians found themselves in a country where they could not speak the language, searching for jobs and accommodation. They were temporarily housed in army camps, which were described as “Hell!” with “10 thousand of us complaining every day we want the job or repatriation.”
While Italian immigrants rioted, British emigrants became Australian citizens and fitted in easily to the Australian culture in comparison.
Another Italian was quoted as saying “It was the Promised Land of Australia everybody talked about, you know. I, hang on, I was only eighteen. But, God, it was a disappointment, this Promised Land”.
A Win-Win Situation The United States is one of the richest, safest, most diverse countries in the world. Americans have rights, freedoms, and liberties that most countries do not. Citizens of this country have many opportunities to work and speak their mind. They also have a right to be happy. To many American citizens, these rights don't seem very special. Try imagining not living in America. ...