A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Language Question in Australia's Immigration Policies: 1901-1957

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Ndhlovu, Finex (2008) A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Language Question in Australia's Immigration Policies: 1901-1957. Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association e-Journal, 4 (2). pp. 1-14. ISSN 1832-3898


Australia’s immigration policies have remained an unsettled area subject to political disputation since the promulgation of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (Cth). Section 3(a) of this Act required that all prospective immigrants from non-European countries had to pass a dictation test in any European language selected by the immigration officer. Asian racial groups were the main target of this legislation, which was embraced as part of the ‘White Australia’ policy. Far from being an objective assessment of language proficiency skills, the dictation test was a discursive construct ostensibly designed to be failed and to exclude people whose political and racial affiliations were considered undesirable. Drawing on insights from the conceptual framework of critical discourse analysis, this article traces and examines the use and abuse of language testing as a tool for racial and political exclusion in Australia from 1901 to 1957. Because it was during these years that successive Australian governments embraced explicit formal policies on testing language skills of intending immigrants, this period marks an important chapter in the history of Australia’s immigration policies. Since then, the language question has continued to feature prominently in public debates on Australia’s citizenship and immigration laws.

Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/3864
Official URL http://www.acrawsa.org.au/ejournal
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1606 Political Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 2099 Other Language, Communication and Culture
Historical > SEO Classification > 9402 Government and Politics
Keywords ResPubID14912, immigration policies – Australia, Immigration Restriction Act 1901, dictation test, Asian racial groups, ‘White Australia’ policy, political and racial exclusion, abuse of language testing, Australia’s citizenship
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