Kartia Snoek

From 1901 until 1966 federal legislation in Australia discriminated against people considered by legislators and the judiciary to be ‘aboriginal’ to Australia, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands affecting their social, legal, political and cultural rights. The first of these acts deemed that any Commonwealth contract for the carriage of Australian mail could only be made with companies that employed solely white workers; later acts provided for ‘bounties’ to be paid on goods grown and manufactured by that same workforce. Legislation enacted by the Commonwealth deported thousands of Pacific Island labourers, prevented immigrants considered not to be ‘white’ from entering or immigrating to Australia and denied naturalization certificates to those already resident. Aboriginal people from Australia, and residents considered ‘aboriginal’ to Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands were denied the right to vote and access social welfare. This thesis outlines how these pieces of federal legislation were fundamental to the white Australia policy, working to strengthen and extend the policy beyond immigration and border control to a system of racial privilege and control. It argues that this legislation, alongside government policies, resulted in a tiered system of citizenship under which those considered ‘white’ and male could gain access to all social and legal privileges, while Australian Aboriginal people and those born in, or considered ‘aboriginal’ to Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and sometimes also New Zealand could not. This thesis examines how federal legislation specifically (as opposed to state legislation) created these tiers of citizenship, through legislation privileging the white, male worker, legislation deporting Pacific Island labourers, legislation and policies preventing people from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands from migrating to and settling in Australia and legislation which curbed access to social, political and economic rights for people considered ‘aboriginal’ to Australia, Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and sometimes also New Zealand. It also explores the gradual dismantling of Australia’s tiered system of citizenship and how Aboriginal Australians and residents from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands responded to, and were slowly able to climb the citizenship ladder.
Supervisors: Associate Professor Sara Wills, Dr Graham Willett