Directions for applying the dictation test

Circular to the Collector of Customs, Fremantle

Directions for applying the dictation test, 4 March 1927
Page(s): 1  2  
Title: Directions for applying the dictation test
Subtitle: Circular to the Collector of Customs, Fremantle
Date: 04 March 1927
Content creator: FJ Quinlan, Assistant Secretary, Home and Territories Department
Keywords: dictation test, immigration, White Australia Policy, prohibited, European, immigrant, languages, opportunity, instructions, precaution
Record creator: Collector of Customs, Western Australia
Reference: PP6/1, 1927/H/427

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4th March, 1927.

No. 5374.     EK.
No. 27/5286


The Collector of Customs,


Re I.A.I.'s 52-56:

The following directions should be observed in connection with the application of the dictation test:

(a) Test, when applied, to be effective: As indicated in I.A.I.56, the test when applied to an immigrant, is intended to serve as an absolute bar to such person's entry into Australia, or as a means of depriving him of the right to remain in the Commonwealth if he has landed. The test should therefore be applied in a language with which the immigrant is not sufficiently acquainted to be able to write out at dictation.

(b) Languages: Section 3, paragraph (a), of the Act requires that the test applied shall consist of not less than fifty words in any prescribed language. No languages have yet been specially prescribed by Regulation, But the Act permits of any European language being used, as authorised by Section 3 of the Principal Act – see footnote (b) under Section 3 of the Consolidated Act 1901–1925. In ordinary circumstances, the tests furnished from this Department should be used.

NOTE: The question has been raised as to whether it would be allowable to abandon the application of a dictation test before completing the fifty words and to choose a fresh passage in another language, in any case where an immigrant, after admitting inability to write in the language first chosen, commences to write in such a manner as to indicate the likelihood of his passing the test. The Crown Law authorities, however, definitely advise that once the test has been started it should be gone on with and carried to completion. It is therefore desirable that every possible precaution should be taken beforehand in doubtful cases to ascertain whether the person concerned is likely to be able to write in the language chosen.

(c) Method of application: Various Court cases have been lost through evidence being furnished that the test had not been correctly applied. The main point to remember is that, although a language may be chosen with which the immigrant is not acquainted, the test should be applied in such a way that he would be afforded a reasonable opportunity to write the passage out if he were literate and knew the language. The following precautions should therefore be taken, viz:–

(i) Pencil and paper should be handed to the person to be tested.

(ii) It should be clearly explained to him what he is required to do, viz.: to write out the passage dictated to him (if necessary, an interpreter should be employed to explain the requirement).

(iii) The whole passage should be read over once to indicate what the passage is, and then repeated more slowly as the actual test, a few words at a time, right to the end of the passage, whether the person attempts to write or not.

(iv) If the Officer has good reason to believe that the person to be tested could write in English, a passage of not less than fifty words in some other European language may be selected. If an Officer is not available to read the passage correctly in the language chosen, a person acquainted with the language may be authorised in writing by an Officer to dictate the passage, see paragraph (a), Section 3, of the Act.

F. J. Quinlan
Assistant Secretary