This is an Act passed by the Australian federal parliament in 1901. It is headed: 'AN ACT To place certain restrictions on Immigration and to provide for the removal from the Commonwealth of prohibited Immigrants', and is known as the Immigration Restriction Act. It shows the first page of the Act, up to section 3(a), which defines 'prohibited immigrants' as those who fail to pass a 'dictation test' and sign a passage of 50 words in a European language. The Act is printed on parchment, bound by blue ribbon and has a red wax seal of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia on the left-hand side. Handwritten on the page are the words 'No.17 of 1901' and '(Assented to 23rd December 1901)'.
- The Immigration Restriction Act is a landmark document of the first parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The six Australian colonies were governed by separate parliaments until the formation of the Australian Government in 1901. The identification of the act as 'No 17 of 1901' means that this was the seventeenth piece of legislation passed by the federal parliament in 1901.
- The Immigration Restriction Act was the key part of a package of legislation to restrict the immigration and settlement of non-European people in Australia. The package included the Pacific Islander Labourers Act 1901, which restricted the entry of Pacific Islanders to Australia to those under licence as indentured servants, and section 15 of the Post and Telegraph Act, also 1901, which required that ships carrying Australian mail should only employ white labour.
- The Immigration Restriction Act established the infamous 'dictation test' in section 3(a) – the test kept most non-Europeans out of Australia for more than 50 years until 1958. It was used 805 times between 1902 and 1903, with 46 people passing, and 554 times between 1904 and 1909, with only six people passing. After 1909 no person passed the dictation test and those who failed were refused entry or deported.
- The Act includes the text 'in an [sic] European language directed by the officer', which became the key means of restricting immigration. The tester could choose any European (or later, 'prescribed') language, so even if the would-be immigrant could speak English, they could be tested on little-spoken languages such as Scots Gaelic or Walloon, a French dialect, and refused entry. In this way the Australian Government could circumvent accusations of racism by their allies, Britain and Japan.
- The Act refers to the King. Australians in 1901 were part of the British Empire, which was reflected in the choice of the Westminster parliamentary system for the federal parliament, the English monarch as the head of state, and civic symbols such as the Union Jack.
- The Immigration Restriction Act was granted royal assent on 23 December 1901. This was necessary because an Act of parliament does not become law until it has received royal assent. In the Australian Parliament, this involves the Act being passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then given royal assent by the Governor-General, who represents the British monarchy.
- This document shows the blue ribbon and formal red wax seal with the words 'Parliament of the Commonwealth', symbols of the newly formed nation of Australia. It also shows the form of text used for writing legislation – each section is numbered, the language is formal and terms such as 'Officer' and 'prohibited immigrants' are defined for legal purposes.
- This is an example of a document typeset on a linotype typesetting machine. Linotype technology, introduced in the 1890s, revolutionised the printing process. It allowed an operator to type a complete line of text, which was then cast from a set of moulds automatically assembled by the machine. This invention meant that newspapers could be produced four to five times faster than before. This document was most likely printed by the Government Printer in Melbourne.