Environment, Race, and Nationhood in Australia: Revisiting by Russell McGregor

By Russell McGregor

This new learn bargains a well timed and compelling account of why prior generations of Australians have visible the north of the rustic as an empty land, and the way these perceptions of Australia’s tropical areas effect present coverage and form the self-image of the kingdom. It considers the origins of those matters - from fears of invasion and ethical qualms approximately leaving assets mendacity idle, from apprehensions approximately white nationhood coming lower than overseas censure and misgivings concerning the common attributes of the north - and elucidates Australians’ altering appreciations of the typical environments of the north, their moving attitudes towards race and their unsettled conceptions of Asia.

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Extra resources for Environment, Race, and Nationhood in Australia: Revisiting the Empty North

Sample text

Racial harmony in these northern communities depended on racial stratification. Whites stood at the apex; certain Asians (often Japanese, sometimes Chinese) on the next rung down; other Asians such as Malays and Javanese below them; Pacific and Torres Strait Islanders on the next level down; and Aborigines at the bottom of the heap. Provided members of each group acknowledged their place in the hierarchy, a pragmatic tolerance prevailed, but this was liable to break down if any group acted in ways above its designated station, particularly if it challenged white supremacy.

36 The white Australia policy was directed against all the non-white peoples of the world, but Asians had a special place in its demonology. 2). The white Australia policy was instituted to keep Asians and other colored races out of the continent. But members of those races were already inside, nowhere more numerously than in the north. Tens of thousands of Chinese miners had rushed to the northern goldfields; others came as workers on projects such as the Palmerston to Pine Creek railway; others again as merchants, servants, gardeners, and a host of other occupations.

It was a common understanding—or misunderstanding—in the north shortly after federation. From the polyglot pearling port of Thursday Island, Alexander Corran, editor of the Torres Strait Pilot, also attacked the white Australia legislation while simultaneously defending white ascendancy. Corran emphasized “the geographical propinquity of North Australia, where the land is almost 26 R. MCGREGOR entirely uninhabited, to Asia with its overcrowded population of hundreds of millions,” and predicted that the rising powers of Asia would soon take exception to their exclusion and force Australia to open its doors.

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