Cashen, Phil: The White Australia Policy: always in the background

Phil Cashen

The White Australia Policy: always in the background‘, Shire at War, 28 July 2020

From down Alberton, Gippsland, Victoria way comes this detailed post from blogger-historian, Phil Cashen. It looks at the treatment of the White Australia Policy in the Alberton Shire local paper during the Great War. In some ways, it is a microcosm of the Australia depicted in Peter Cochrane’s Best We Forget: The War for White Australia.

The dream that Australia could come to represent the ultimate flowering of the British race – in the style of C E W Bean’s writing on national character – was tangible [writes Cashen]. As a consequence, the defining attitudes to race that were integral to the White Australia Policy were commonplace and accepted as everyday realities. They were as common as people’s identification with, commitment to and belief in the Empire.

The following is a simple exercise intended to highlight such attitudes and world views. It takes short pieces from the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – over the period of WW1 and uses them to reveal just how common the attitudes to race that underpinned the White Australia Policy were. The reporting at the time gave no sense that the attitudes revealed were remarkable, controversial or in any way contested or disputed.

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