Authority to enter Australia showing a photograph of Chinese-born Sym Choon

In lieu of a certificate exempting him from the dictation test, Chinese-born Sym Choon was issued with this authority to re-enter Australia.

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Vrroom contains hundreds of records on immigration, especially on the White Australia Policy and its administration.

The spine of the White Australia Policy was established in 1901 with the Immigration Restriction Act and the Pacific Island Labourers Act. These Acts enabled the prohibition of immigrants considered undesirable – especially Asians – and the deportation of 'coloured' labourers.

In the first decades of the policy, it mostly applied to Chinese and other Asian residents, as well as travellers, students, performers and small business people.

In the postwar period, displaced persons from Europe were encouraged to immigrate to Australia. Many were assisted under various schemes. An unprecedented number of people came, providing the labour for Australia's postwar economic boom. Increasingly, immigrants were non-Europeans, laying the foundations for Australia's multicultural society.

The Australian Government continued to support and defend the White Australia Policy beyond World War II. But criticism of the policy – and particularly the term 'White Australia' – came from both within and outside Australia. In 1966, Prime Minister Harold Holt relaxed the policy so that more non-Europeans could migrate, and made it easier for them to gain citizenship.

In the mid-1970s, a new wave of immigration occurred. Unrest in South-East Asia and the fall of Saigon prompted many desperate refugees to take to the seas in open boats in the hope of finding a new home in Australia.


Australian society includes people from many different places. In recent decades, we have begun to celebrate the richness of our cultural diversity and recognise it as a strength.


The education of its own population is a concern for any government. For Australia it also had significance for its international dealings. Level of education was one consideration when assessing applications to immigrate under Australia's restrictive immigration policies. Meanwhile, Australia also assisted students, especially from Asia, to gain an education but closely monitored the movement of these students.

Indigenous issues

Indigenous Australians were treated as an exception in the Constitution adopted in 1901. This anomaly, and the particular social and economic situation of many Indigenous people, resulted in a raft of policies, reports and bureaucratic measures designed to 'administer' Aborigines.

The referendum of 1967 removed this anomaly, giving Indigenous Australians equal citizenship rights. Since then the emphasis has been on gaining recognition for land rights, access to equal opportunity and overcoming disadvantage in health, education and economic standards.

Gender issues

While women make up over half of the population, the evidence of the records suggests that they have been treated as an exception to the rule. Many records trace women's quest for equality – in voting rights, pay and opportunity. Fortunately, there have always been outspoken women to lobby for the cause.


Issues of who is or can become an Australian citizen are closely tied to government policy. It took a referendum in 1967 to change the Constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians as equal citizens. Earlier, the restrictive White Australia Policy precluded many non-Anglos from achieving citizenship. The fact that many applied to become Australian despite these policies says something about the perception of the opportunities that Australia offered its citizens.


People featured in Vrroom may be well known by many or unknown by most. They include artists, athletes and explorers, as well as activists, outlaws and entertainers. See how these ordinary and not-so-ordinary people have contributed to Australian culture and society.