Degree Name

Master of Arts - Research


University of Wollongong. School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication


This study examines the changes and continuities in Australian citizenship from the time of Federation and the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. A number of historical primary and secondary sources are consulted, supported by a critical analysis of central concepts including immigration, citizenship, power and multiculturalism. The thesis presents a historical overview of immigration policy and how it relates to the policy and process of citizenship. It argues that the key historical struggles in the evolution of Australian citizenship, including political and social struggles, are in conflict over who to exclude and who to include in the nation and in notions of citizenship. What constitutes and what determines Australian citizenship are also examined. The foundation for citizenship arguably developed with Federation in 1901 and the ensuing White Australia Policy, with its relation to power, privilege and prejudice, inclusion and exclusion, and practices of assimilation. Since the 1970s, the policies of multiculturalism, such as Anti discrimination and Equal Opportunity, were introduced with measures addressing justice and fairness, aimed at bringing about change. The contradictions between the policy and the ideology of citizenship, and between multicultural theory and practice, are a result of the continual struggle with the legacy of history that currently influences and arguably governs Australia’s cultural diversity. The thesis argues that Australia’s long experience of the White Australia Policy continues to guide significant political, social and moral aspects of citizenship. Citizenship continues to meet significant challenges, including unspoken assumptions from earlier times, such as the privileging of white, European, English-speaking inhabitants and their status as the ‘default’ version of the Australian citizen. From the perspective of minority groups, citizenship does not bring equality, but continues to be used as a tool for exclusion. This study has found that some early assumptions relating to citizenship survive, with slight variations. It argues that the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, which introduced a test to determine citizenship eligibility, has similarities with the European language dictation test which was in force from 1901 to the late 1950s. Both favour assimilation over multicultural difference.