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Subject: Cultural Studies »


The end of White Australia

Don Dunstan.

Don Dunstan, South Australian Premier, tells about his struggle with the Labor Party to get rid of White Australia.



Date Added:

26 June 2002


Making Multicultural Australia


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



20 secs


South Australian Premier, 1967-68 and 1970-79

It was in 1965 that I succeeded, at last after a very long struggle in the Labor Party, in getting a motion passed at Federal Conference to get rid of the words "maintenance of White Australia". And Arthur Calwell was forced into seconding the motion, with ashes in his mouth, I may say.


So there had been a really significant change, particularly as White Australia as a distinctly racial policy was quite fundamental to the founding of the Labor Party originally.

Certainly the impetus for the change in the Labor Party's policy about White Australia came from a movement within the Party which had always been opposed to racial discrimination... Numbers of members of the Party in fact joined the Immigration Reform Association whose principal object was to eliminate the White Australia policy.

And the Catholic Church itself had been making noises about racial discrimination at that time. And so the words "White Australia" seemed offensive to the kinds of things that they were talking about in social justice.

The official policy of all governments in Australia until 1965 was that Aborigines were to be assimilated into the European community of Australia in such a way that they became Europeans, the only difference being the colour of skin. Their own culture was, in effect, to be wiped out.

In the late ’sixties, the Federal Liberal Government was still practising effective exclusion of Asian people. Anybody with a different colour skin found it difficult to enter here. But there was still a migration recruitment policy in those days. So that we got the absurd situation that Billy Snedden, who was the Minister for Immigration, went searching for light skinned Turks in Anatolia.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1993.