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Origins of the Term Aussie and its Eurocentric Meaning

Compare and contrast Australian attitudes towards immigration with ONE of the United States or Korea or another country in East Asia?

The word ‘Aussie’ was used during World War I, which referred to people born in Australia but their ancestry is from British or Irish. The word Aussie was practically employed after World War II to distinguish the people who were born in Australia and those who were immigrants from Western and Southern countries of Europe. Therefore the word Aussie has a Eurocentric and Anachronistic meaning which shows the commitment of Australia towards the ethnic and religious diversity (E.L. Piesse, 2004).

Australia has shown momentous progress towards the multicultural integrated society. Before 1970, Australia was following the policy of ‘White Australians’ where the migrants or people from different nations were forced to give up their cultural identify and adopt Australian religion and culture (DIAC, 2008). Such migrants were not provided basic services and had no or very little involvement in politics. They were not provided full citizenship right despite of adopting Australian culture.

The Anglo-Australian community were totally against the migrants from various countries like America, Asia etc (Shiobara, 2009). In fact the Australians who were from different cultural backgrounds were themselves experiencing the fanatical experiences, for e.g. their places of worship were seen as the place for invading the outsiders and was considered to be a threat to the life of Australians (Jame, 1962).

The era between 1981 and 2000, the Asian migrants into Australia have increased from lakhs to millions. The majority of ethnic group present in one of the Sydney’s suburb Cabramatta are the Vietnamese group (Nagata, 1990). The Cabramatta symbolises the presence of multicultural signs and integration of various cultures. There is one monument named Freedom Plaza in Cabramatta which is a meeting place for various communities. This place depicts the Asian style lion statues, colours, gardens and artefacts.

Australia is the classical country of immigration. The Australian population compared from 1947 to 1994 has increased from 7 million to 18 million people. This increase in population is because of these migrants. The total count of Indigenous people in Australia is just 2% of the total population and immigrants counts 23%.

After the completion of Second Wold War, Australian government started an immigration program in order to increase the Australian population and enhance the economic growth. The main aim behind this immigration program was to give entry to immigrants from British, but instead of British immigrants a huge proportion came from North, South and East Europe between 1950 and 1960 (Nagata, 2000). There was a recession in 1970 because of which new immigrants from Asia, New Zealand, Latin America and Middle East were welcomed. This whole program of immigration was a planned policy to recruit people from different nations for expansion programs of Australia (J. Armstrong, 1999). But the consequences of these immigration programs were unforeseen. People coming from different nations with different cultural background and religions continued practising their own worshipping style and ethnics was not predicted by the architects of the migration programs.

Australia's History of Racial Discrimination

During World War II, majority of the Japanese entered Australia. The reason why Japanese travelled Australia was that they were attracted by the sugar cane and pearl industry in North-Eastern Australia. But after sometime the Japanese workers realised that they are caged by Australian industry and are forced to work in Sugar cane and Pearl industry till they repay their debts (Christine, 2014).  The life of Japanese labourers was getting very tough and hard and were treated very harshly form the Australian government. Despite of working under dangerous conditions like cyclones, shark attacks, the Japanese labourers proved to be strong and highly skilled and thus they enjoyed lucrative positions in workforce.

These Japanese divers working in pearl industry were from poor villages of Japan. The pay given to these workers as per Australian standards was very low but in comparison to their village earning it was very much sufficient. The Japanese divers signed two year contracts after completion of contracts they returned back to Japan. But few of the Japanese stayed there by marrying the local women.

We all are very well aware of Japanese Internment in US and Canada but very few of us know that Japanese were interned by the Australians too. The reason why the Australians treatment towards Japanese was not in news was the number of Japanese in Australia in comparison to United States and Canada. There were around 1,12,200 Japanese interned by US and around twenty two thousand by Canada. But in Australia the number was very low to only four thousand. The reason why the number of Japanese immigrants in Australia was low because in 1940 the Japanese sensed the turmoil of war and decided to return back to their home country Japan. During the war the Japanese workers working in pearl industry, the elder and long term residents who were staying before the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 were jailed during the Second World War (Christine, 2014).

The Australian government decided to intern the Japanese as they were viewed threat towards the national security. These Japanese workers were seen with a suspicious eye of being spies. Therefore during the world war these Japanese were jailed by the Australian government. Almost all the Japanese were jailed because they were more noticeable in the Australian population and were absorbed in the Australia like Germans and Italians. After 1942, some sought of relaxation was given to Japanese by allowing them to appeal against their internment on the basis of their long stay in Australia, poor health or old age (Christine, 2014). But they were afraid of filing the appeal because they believed that the war is on peak and local citizens are against them and once they are freed they will be badly treated by the Australian citizens. Thus they decided to stay safer by internment. The minimum duration of internment was four years.

Initially the Japanese men immigrated in Australia, their wives were not able to enter Australia as the application and approval process was very tedious thus preventing Japanese wives to enter Australia. Thus Japanese women preferred marrying Japanese soldiers instead of service men, because while marrying soldiers these ladies were treated as traitors of the country. In Australia these war brides were termed as prostitutes or gold-diggers because of this they felt ashamed of such negative connotations (Ibid., p. 170). When the women married an Australian soldier they were forced to convert into Christianity which led to the loss of Japanese culture (Tokita, 2007). So Japanese women who wanted to enter Australia they married Australian soldiers so that they can overcome the problems related to bureaucracy, cultural and health they faced. After getting entry their life was not easy still they had to face the problem of language. Japanese war brides were not able to speak fluent English, cannot adopt the eating habits. They missed their soya sauce and were asked to cook typical Australian dishes and meat (Jared, 2004).

Australia's Increasing Diversity

Challenges faced by Japanese immigrants

For Japanese it was not easy to enter Australia, leaving behind all his friends and family and wife too. Australia was totally new for them their culture, language and religion was totally different. Moving into a new country is more stressful rather than exciting. The reason Japanese entered Australia was the pearl industry and Sugar cane industry. They were paid more in comparison to Japan. These immigrants were from poor villages and whatever wages they were getting from Australia was much more they would have earned in their home town (Manabu, 2009). These immigrants came to Australia to find better job and earnings, as they were not able to speak English they faced serious challenges by the local public. As cited by Cathy, Japanese faced racism and faced difficult time in health issues. They were not provided better treatment; they were deprived of good doctors and medicines. The jobs they were doing were full of risks and faced life threatening diseases.

Attitude of Local public for Japanese workers

The Japanese workers were hard workers and worked for long hours. The Japanese divers working in pearl industry showed resentment because they excelled in their deep sea diving. Because of this the local Australian public showed suspicions that these Japanese workers who are working at cheap wages, for long hours will take away the jobs of White-Australians (Oliver, 2006). The trade unions also raised their concerns regarding these immigrants. If they continue working at low wages and harsh working conditions, it will lower the working conditions of Australian workers. This was the reason why Australian local public formed racist beliefs keeping the non-whites out of Australia (Swirk)

The Australians have gradually adopted the cultures and religions of various immigrants entered Australia at the time of War. These immigrants who settled in Australia by marrying the local citizens or earned the citizenship started following their cultural style. Thus this led to multiculturalism in Australian society. With such different culture dwelling today, Australia has huge range of food styles, arts, paintings, monuments and various cultural programs (Hone, 2008). This shows that gradually the attitude of Australians towards immigration changed and they favoured their entrance and allowed them to depict their ethnicity and culture. 

From the above essay we conclude saying that during 19th century the Japanese population in Australia was comparatively small. During 1886, leaving the boundaries of Japan was a capital offence, but later in the 19th century Japanese started entering Australia and showed their good skills in pearl and sugar industry. But when the Immigration Restriction Act was passed by Australia in 1901, it restricted the entrance of all non-European and Japanese. But looking at the talents and skills of Japanese workers they were allowed to land in Australia and were also exempted from the dictation test which was required for extending their residency in Australia. At the time of War against Japan, the Japanese population staying in Australia was jailed and were freed when the war was over. During this time the immigration from Japan was banned. But with the end of War the Japanese population increased and they were allowed to work on contract basis (Murakami, 1999).

Immigration Policies of Australia

In 1911, the service industry of Australia got influx with Japanese troops in form of laundry men, house-keepers and other low grade jobs (Pam, 2006). The Japanese females took prostitution for their survival. At the time of White Australian policy, few of the Japanese workers were allowed to stay in Australia and they were the crew members, divers working in pearl extraction industry, merchants and students who were given temporary entry.

Thus for generations, Japan has been seen with suspicion by Australians. Japan has been a subject of Australian articles and cartoons depicting the future invader of Australia. The local citizens got so tensed that Japanese with their hard works and growing population will take over the Australian population. Australians believed that Japanese are spying on their natural resources and armaments (Wood, 1998). But practically it did not happened as the Australian government took regulatory actions to control the immigrations happening in Australia

Cathy Pearl. Challenges Immigrants face. Ed Helper. Available at

Christine Piper. Feb 2014. Japanese in Australia: From Meiji to World War II. Discover Nikkei: Japanese migrants and their descendents. Available at

DIAC. 2008. Community Information Summary: Japan-born (Canberra: Department of Immigration and Citizenship). Available at: /statistics/comm-summ/ index.htm.

E.L. Piesse. 2004. Japan and Australia. Foreign Affairs. Available at

Hone, S. 2008, “War & Love”, Signals: The Quarterly Magazine of the Australian National Maritime Museum, No. 85, December 2008 - February 2009, pp. 10-15.

Ibid., p. 170. According to Ogawa’s interviews with former divers, White prostitutes also came to work during the lay-up season. T. Ogawa, p. 175.

Aspects of Japanese Immigration to Queensland before 1990. Available at

Jame Jupp. 1962. Australia’s migration history. Migration heritage centre. Available at

Jared Denman. 2004.        Japanese wives in Japanese-Australian intermarriages. The university of Queensland. New Voice Volume 3. Available at  

Manabu Shimasawa, Kazumasa Oguro. 2009. The impact of immigration on the Japanese Economy: A multi-country simulation model. The Research Institute of economy, trade and industry. Available at 

Nagata, Y. 1990, “A Foot in the Door – Easing of Restrictions on Entry of Japanese into Australia after WWII” (abstract), in Australia and Asia: Meeting the Challenge of the Future, Eighth Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, 2-5 July 1990, Griffith University, Queensland.

Nagata, Y. 2001, “Lost in Space: Ethnicity and Identity of Japanese-Australians 1945- 1960s”, Changing Histories: Australia and Japan edited by P. Jones & P. Oliver, Monash Asia Institute, pp. 85-99.

Nagata, Yuriko. 1996. Unwanted Aliens: Japanese Internment in Australia. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Oliver, Pam. 2007. ‘Japanese relationships in White Australia: The Sydney experience to 1941’. History Australia 4 (1): pp. 5.1 to 5.20. DOI: 10.2104/ha070005.

Pam Oliver. 2006. Japanese relationships in white Australia. The Sydney experience to 1941. Available at

Shiobara, Y. 2005. Middle-class Asian Immigrants and Welfare Multiculturalism: A Case Study of a Japanese Community Organisation in Sydney. Asian Studies Review, vol. 29 ,pp. 395-414.

Swirk. History of racist fear and attitudes. White Australia: Immigration Restriction Act 1901. Available at

The changing face of Modern Australia 1950-1970’s. Nov, 2013. Australian Government. Available at

Tokita, A. Aug, 2007. Marriage and the Australia-Japan Relationship. Paper presented at International Conference of the Japan Studies Association of Canada. Available at: https://udo.arts.

Civilised Asian: Images of Japan and the Japanese as viewed by Australians from the early 19th century to 1901, PhD thesis, University of Queensland, p. 168.

Yuriko Nagata. 2004. The Japanese in Torres Strait. Canberra, Pandanus book. Pg138-159. Available at 

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