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Image White Australia Policy badge, c1920

TLF ID M001435

This is a circular copper-nickel and aluminium fob badge made around 1920. The words 'WHITE / AUSTRALIA' run across a central cut-out map of Australia, which is made of silvered (white) wash on aluminium. The circular brass border bears the words 'AUSTRALIA FOR THE AUSTRALIANS'. There is suspension loop at top. The badge is 25 mm high, 22 mm wide and 2 mm deep.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This badge is an example of the attitudes that once kept the White Australia policy alive. It shows that the advertising of racist beliefs was accepted by a significant section of the community during one period in Australia's history. In this period the banning of immigration by non-Europeans (exclusionism) and racist practices were openly supported in public policy and government legislation. During the early decades of the 20th century, supporters of the White Australia policy even happily held the mistaken view that Indigenous Australians, who were not 'white', were a 'dying race'.
  • On the back of the badge, the map bears the word 'PROTECTION' and the border is inscribed  with 'POPULATION PRODUCTION PROGRESS'. Protectionism, or the restriction of free trade, was generally associated with the White Australia policy of the time.
  • In 1919 the then prime minister William (Billy) Hughes hailed the White Australia policy as 'the greatest thing we have achieved'. The badge dates to around the time of this comment.
  • The development of the White Australia policy can be traced to growing resentment against Chinese miners arriving in Australia during the gold rushes in the second half of the 19th century. This attitude led to violent riots at Lambing Flat in Young, New South Wales, and at Buckland River in Victoria. Ultimately, it led to formal limitations on Chinese immigration.
  • A similar racist response occurred after the employment in northern Queensland of indentured workers from Melanesia. (This indenturing involved contracting a labourer to work for an employer for a fixed period of time in exchange for necessities such as food, clothing and lodging. It can be seen as a form of fixed-term slavery.) Fears of competition from these workers and loss of employment for descendants of Europeans ensured that legislation was devised to restrict immigration at the time of Federation in 1901.
  • Perhaps the most infamous method of restricting access to Australia was the dictation test of 50 words in any European language, not necessarily known by the applicant. Often a rare language such as Irish Gaelic was selected. This ensured that the applicant failed and could be refused entry.
  • The beginning of the end of racist policy occurred in 1949, with the entry of 800 non-European refugees and Japanese war brides. However, it wasn't until 1973 under the Whitlam Labor government that the last few references to race were removed from immigration policy.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Powerhouse Museum
  • Organization: Powerhouse Museum
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: NSW, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Curriculum Corporation and Trustees of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences 2010 (except where otherwise indicated). You may view, display, print out, copy and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.