Think of this as a version of Howard Zinn’s landmark 1980 publication A People’s History of the United States. Like Zinn’s book, this doco gives voice to the forgotten people, the ones forcibly removed both from the pages of history and from the land (in the case of one confused Fijian/Indian girl in the ‘70s) by that old paragon of British Imperialism, the White Australia Policy. Long before anyone here had slurped a pho, gorged a pizza or regretted a kebab our Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, could be found lecturing world leaders at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference that no way would he support a racial equality clause and fat bloody chance he’d let any of those wily Japanese past our borders. Nearly a century later, politicians at the highest level seem to be reading from the same noxious script.
For three quarters of a century, it was an immigration policy supported by both sides of politics that doggedly strived to ensure Australia remained as homogonous as possible. The land of opportunity… So long as you were white. A few rabble-rousers (Charles Perkins) attacked the edifice, but the institutional strength of ‘white’ Australia was near indomitable. Yet cracks were appearing. Menzies tried to stem the flow with the Colombo Plan, the first mass advertising campaign promoting Australia as a great, not really racist country. It failed. Whitlam said he cared, but the figures and facts suggest otherwise. It was Fraser who reversed the rot and welcomed thousands of fleeing Vietnamese. One of the reasons he is hated by the new generation of conservatives. Says it all really.
But history is contestable. And there are large swathes of our populace longing for days of yore; a mythical place that never even existed, as Immigration Nation makes so plainly clear. Riveting, angry and essential stuff.