Australia and Refugees, 19012002: An Annotated Chronology Based on Official Sources

Chronologies ONline

Social Policy Group

Dr Barry York - Social Policy Group

Last updated 16 June 2003

This Chronology is issued electronically. It will be kept up-to-date online. The date of the latest update is noted clearly above.


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Chronology 1901-1980


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Source Documents

1901

Australia's population, exclusive of so-called 'full-blooded Aboriginals' who were not counted, is 3 773 801 at the time of the 1901 Census. A total of 865 498 is born overseas (23 per cent of the population). People from the United Kingdom are the largest overseas-born group (679 159). The immigration policy of the new federated Australian nation is based on racial exclusion, the notion of a 'White Australia'. There is no refugee policy but refugees, mainly fleeing religious persecution in Germany, Hungary, Poland and Italy, settled in Australia as unassisted immigrants during the nineteenth century colonial era.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 19011907, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Melbourne, 1908, p. 147

1901

The Immigration (Restriction) Act is passed by the new Commonwealth of Australia Parliament. The Act does not mention race but seeks to prohibit the permanent settlement of Asians, Africans and other coloured races through Section 3(a). Under this provision, a dictation test may be administered in any European language against an immigrant. It is enforced mainly against Chinese arrivals and, coupled with penalties against shipping companies, quickly proves effective in deterring 'non-white' arrivals. Under the 'White Australia Policy', non-European refugees are not welcome, though during World War Two, more than 6000 Asian evacuees are admitted temporarily. The racism inherent in the Act works against non-European refugee and migrant intake for seven decades.

A. C. Palfreeman, The Administration of the White Australia Policy, Melbourne University Press, 1967, pp. 8185

1911

Australia's population, exclusive of so-called 'full-blooded Aboriginals' who were not counted, is 4 455 005 at the time of the 1911 Census. A total of 787 335 is born overseas (18 per cent of the population). People from the United Kingdom are the largest overseas-born group (590 722). The White Australia Policy remains the guiding principle in immigration policy. Small numbers of refugees are admitted, on the same basis as other 'white' immigrants, including Jews fleeing imperial Russia and Russian Poland.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 19011913, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Melbourne, 1914, p. 120

191418

World War One brings immigration to a virtual halt. In the period between 1905 and the war, Australia receives 390 000 new settlers, mainly from the British Isles. The war creates a massive refugee problem in Europe. It also leads to the formation of the League of Nations.

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration: Federation to Century's End, 19012000, Canberra, 2001, p. 1

1919

Australia joins the League of Nations as a founding member.

 

1921

Australia's population, exclusive of so-called 'full-blood Aboriginals' who were not counted, is 5 435 734 at the time of the 1921 Census. A total of 854 071 people are from overseas (16 per cent of the population). People born in the British Isles are the largest group (676 387). Australia has admitted small numbers of refugees from Europe, perhaps no more than a few thousand, under the general immigration program since 1901. The White Australia Policy remains in force.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1924, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Melbourne, 1924, p. 921

1921

Australia supports the establishment of the League's Office of Commissioner for Refugees and recognises the League's special passports for people in need. During the 1920s, some Russians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Assyrians and Jews are admitted into Australia, but the numbers are not significant. They are only admitted in cases where they meet normal migration criteria.

C. Price, The Refugee Issue in Australia: 18381991, Working Papers No. 2, Australian Immigration Research Centre, Deakin, ACT, 1990, p. 3

1921

The Australian Government takes control of migrant selection from the States, under the Joint Commonwealth and States Scheme.

 

1922

The Hughes' and Bruce Governments pursue an active mass immigration program under the Empire Settlement Act 1922. Assisted passages are provided by the British Government to encourage British, mainly English and Scots, emigration to Australia.

 

1929

Economic depression brings assisted immigration to a halt. However, during the 1920s, more than 300 000 immigrants are admitted, of whom two-thirds are assisted under the Empire Settlement Act.

Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Immigration: Federation to Century's End, 19012000, Canberra, 2001, p. 3

1933

Adolph Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany and incites violent anti-Semitism as part of his judenrein program, i.e. the program to make Germany free of Jews. Thousands of Jews seek protection in Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.

M. Blakeney, Australia and the Jewish Refugees 19331948, Croom Helm Australia, Sydney, 1985, pp. 84100

1933

Australia's population, exclusive of so-called 'full-blood Aboriginals' who were not counted, is 6 629 839 at the time of the 1933 Census. A total of 903 273 is born overseas (14 per cent of the population). People born in are the largest group (486 831), followed by Scotland-born (132 489), Irish (78 652) and New Zealanders (45 963). There are 26 756 Italian-born and 16 842 German-born residents. Australia has admitted small numbers of refugees, no more than several thousand, under the general immigration program since 1901. The White Australia Policy remains in force.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1951, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, 1951, p. 550

1938

In July, Australia joins 31 other countries at a conference in Evian-les-Bains, France, to discuss the urgent Jewish refugee situation arising from the worsening situation in Germany and Hitler's occupation of Austria. The Conference, convened by the United States, establishes an Inter-governmental Committee for Refugees. Australia's representative at Evian asserts that, while Australia sympathises with the persecuted Jews and has admitted approximately 700 since 1934, it does not want to import a 'racial problem'. Later in the year, after the German occupation of the Sudetan area of Czechoslovakia, Australia agrees to receive 15 000 Jewish refugees over a three-year period. Seven thousand are admitted before the intake is halted by war in Europe. Settlement and post-settlement services are provided by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, which was founded with government support in 1937.

P. Bartrop (ed.), False Havens: the British Empire and the Holocaust, University Press of America Inc., New York, 1995, pp. 6465, pp. 130145

1939

World War Two causes cessation of significant immigration but during the Pacific War, Australia admits 6269 non-Europeans, mainly crew of Asian ships stranded in Australian ports and Chinese evacuees from Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. The majority are voluntarily repatriated after the war but those who wish to stay are compelled to leave under special legislation.

K. Blackburn, 'Disguised Anti-Colonialism', Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 55, no. 1, 2001, p. 103

1943

Australia supports the establishment of the United Nations' Relief and Rehabilitation Agency and makes financial contributions to it, thus making a commitment to international responsibility to refugee work.

National Population Council, Refugee Review, AGPS, Canberra, 1991, p. 63

1945

Australia's first Department of Immigration is established on 13 July, with Hon. Arthur Calwell as Minister in the Chifley Labor Government. An unprecedentedly ambitious mass immigration program is undertaken, fuelled by a post-war economic boom and the need for labour. The Government is committed to increasing Australia's population by two per cent per annum, with one per cent attained through immigration.

 

1946

In December, Australia abstains in the United Nations General Assembly vote to establish the International Refugee Organisation. Prime Minister Chifley is not opposed to the IRO in principle but doesn't want Australia to incur any moral responsibility for financial support.

ibid., p. 66

1947

Australia's population, exclusive of so-called 'full-blood Aboriginals' who were not counted, is 7 579 358 at the time of the 1947 Census. A total of 744 187 is born overseas (10 per cent of the population). People from England are the largest group (381 592), followed by Scots (102 998), Irish (44 813) and New Zealanders (43 610). There are 33 632 Italians and 14 567 Germans. The largest humanitarian group is the Jews, who mainly arrived from Germany and Austria in the 1930s. Official figures were not kept on refugee numbers but it is possible that Australia had admitted about 20 000 refugees since 1901. In 1947, the first liberalisation of the White Australia Policy occurs when the Chifley Government allows non-Europeans who had been admitted for business reasons, and who had lived in Australia continuously for fifteen years, to remain without applying for periodic extensions of permit.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1951, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, 1951, p. 550

1947

In July, Australia enters into an agreement with the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) to select and admit displaced persons from camps in Europe. By 1952, Australia has selected and admitted 170 700 Displaced Persons under this scheme. The main groups are Poles (63 394), Yugoslavs (23 543), Latvians (19 421), Ukrainians (14 464), Hungarians (11 919), Lithuanians (9906), Czechs (9142) and Estonians (5329). They are required to work for a period of two years as directed by the Australian Government. For the first time, the Australian Government is responsible for post-disembarkation settlement services, such as accommodation and basic English classes.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 1953, p. 567

E. Kunz, Displaced Persons: Calwell's New Australians, ANU Press, 1988, p. 43

1949

The Chifley Government passes the War-time Refugees Removal Act in July, with a view to forcibly repatriating approximately 900 non-Europeans who had been admitted temporarily during the war. They had declined to be repatriated, wishing to settle in Australia.

A. C. Palfreeman, op. cit., p. 102

1949

The election of Menzies' Liberal Government in December results in Hon. Harold Holt's appointment as Immigration Minister.

 

1949

Australia supports the establishment of the United Nations' Relief and Works' Agency, created to help the 1.5 million Palestinians who became refugees during and after the establishment of Israel.

National Population Council, op. cit., p. 63

1950

In February, the new Liberal Government cancels some of the deportation orders imposed against Asian war-time evacuees by the previous government and permits about 600 remaining wartime refugees to stay in Australia. They are permitted to live and work as 'permanent residents' but not allowed to bring in families or business assistants.

Palfreeman, op. cit., pp. 2223

Hon. Harold Holt, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1950, p. 96

1950

The United Nations (UN) establishes the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the primary duty of providing international protection for refugees.

 

1951

In 19501951, the Department of Immigration costs the Commonwealth Government 20 137 281, a three-fold increase since 19481949. Approximately 6 000 000 is capital works and services' expenditure on migrant centres and hostels, with another 6 600 000 spent on 'miscellaneous services', mainly maintenance of and equipment for migrant centres and hostels.

Commonwealth of Australia: The Budget 19521953, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1952, pp. 10, 45, 59, 71

1952

The Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) is established, in part in response to UN unwillingness to involve its High Commissioner for Refugees in costly resettlement operations. Australia joins ICEM in 1953 but, in 1973, withdraws its support. (According to Price, this was because the Whitlam Government regarded ICEM as too influenced by United States' policy). During its twenty year association with ICEM, Australia admits 628 000 people, of whom 199 000 are refugees. Australia rejoins ICEM in 1985.

ibid., p. 63

Price, op. cit., p. 7

Year Book Australia, 197778, ABS, Canberra, 1979, p. 125

1954

Australia's population, exclusive of so-called 'full-blood Aboriginals' who were not counted, is 8 986 530 at the time of the 1954 Census. A total of 1 286 466 is born overseas (14 per cent of the population). People from England are the largest group (478 411), followed by Scots (123 634), Italians (119 897) and Germans (65 422). The emphasis in immigration remains on the recruitment of industrial labour and on the White Australia Policy; though the latter continues to be liberalised. Cultural diversification, necessitated by lack of success in obtaining the desired numbers of United Kingdom migrants, continues during the 1950s as a result of the intake of European 'Displaced Persons' of various ethnic backgrounds, and as a result of assisted passage agreements with governments such as Malta (1948), the Netherlands and Italy (1951), West Germany (1952) and Finland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark (1954). The largest humanitarian groupthe Poland-born, who are mainly admitted as Displaced Personstotals 56 594. More than 170 000 refugees have been admitted since 1945, mainly under the International Refugee Organisation's Displaced Persons' scheme.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1957, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, 1957, p. 566

1951

Australia ratifies the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which defines a refugee as any person who: 'owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country'.

A Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted by the UN in 1967, seeks to update the scope of the convention by removing a stipulation in the 1951 definition to the effect that a refugee only qualifies 'as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951'. Australia does not endorse the Protocol until 1973, under the Whitlam Government.

National Population Council, op. cit., p. 64

1956

In October, Hon. Athol Townley MP succeeds Holt as Immigration Minister in the Menzies' Government.

 

1956

The Menzies' Government liberalises the White Australia Policy by granting permanent resident status to non-Europeans who had arrived as refugees during the war or had resided here for at least 15 years. The reformed policy also allows non-European spouses of Australian citizens to be naturalised and relaxes the conditions of entry for persons of 'mixed descent'. The following year, non-Europeans other than spouses are permitted to apply for citizenship after 15 years residence. Further liberalisation takes place in 1959 and 1960, under Menzies, and in 1966 under Prime Minister Holt.

K. Rivett (ed.), Australia and the Non-White Migrant, Melbourne University Press, 1975, pp. 2530

1957

The formation of the European Economic Community provides freedom of movement between member states and guest-worker programs that have the effect of reducing European migrant and refugee interest in Australia. Over the next ten years, Australia's refugee intake averages less than 2500 per annum.

 

1958

In March, Hon. Alexander Downer MP succeeds Townley as Immigration Minister in Menzies' Government.

 

1958

The Immigration Act is overhauled. The new Migration Act 1958 abolishes the dictation test and replaces it with an entry permit system.

ibid., pp. 2627

1961

In 19601961, the Department of Immigration costs the Commonwealth Government 12 161 849. Approximately 2 250 000 (18.5 per cent) is spent on settlement services (though this term is not used in 19601961). Most of the settlement service expenditure goes to the maintenance of migrants in centres and hostels, medical and hospital costs and the 'education of non-British migrants in the English language'. The latter cost 424 892.

Commonwealth of Australia: The Budget 19611962, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1962, pp. 8, 32, 59

1961

Australia's population is 10 508 186 at the time of the 1961 Census. About half the increase since 1947 (when the population was 7 579 358) is due to immigration. A total of 1 778 780 is born overseas (17 per cent of the population). People from the United Kingdom (and the Republic of Ireland) are the largest group (755 402), followed by Italians (228 296) and Germans (109 315). The largest humanitarian groupthe Poland-born, who mainly arrived as Displaced Persons after the Wartotals 60 049. A total of 261 399 refugees have been admitted since 1945, of whom 200 550 travelled on assisted passages. The White Australia Policy is further liberalised during the 1960s, and governments persist with an economically-driven immigration policy based on industrial labour requirements.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1968, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, 1968, p. 140

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1962, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, 1962, pp. 305306

1963

In December, Hon. Hubert Opperman MP succeeds Downer as Immigration Minister in the Menzies' Government.

 

1966

Review of migration policy further liberalises the White Australia Policy. The fifteen year residence requirement for citizenship is reduced to five years.

J. Jupp, Immigration, Oxford University Press, second edition, Melbourne, 1998, pp. 118119

1966

In December, Hon. William Snedden MP replaces Opperman as Immigration Minister in the Holt Liberal Government.

 

1968

About 6000 Czech and Slovak refugees arrive in Australia following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August. More than 10 000 had arrived in the immediate post-war years (19471952). The 1968 refugees brought the total in Australia to more than 16 000.

M. Cigler, The Czechs in Australia, AE Press, Melbourne, 1983, pp. 111112

1969

In November, Hon. Phillip Lynch MP succeeds Snedden as Immigration Minister in the Gorton Liberal Government.

 

1971

In 19701971, the Department of Immigration costs the Commonwealth Government $70 325 094. Approximately $10 200 000 (14.5 per cent) is spent on settlement services (though this term is not used in 19701971). Most of the settlement service expenditure goes to the maintenance of migrants in centres and hostels, and 'Migrant Education Services'. The latter cost $3 875 000.

Commonwealth of Australia, Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 19711972, House of Representatives, 17 August 1971, pp. 5053

1971

Australia's population is 12 755 638 at the time of the 1971 Census. A total of 2 579 318 is born overseas (20 per cent of the population). People from the United Kingdom (and Republic of Ireland) are the largest group (1 088 210), followed by Italians (289 476) and Greeks (160 200). The largest humanitarian groupthe Poland-born, who mainly arrived as Displaced Persons after the Wartotals 59 700. The number of refugees admitted under assisted passages since the War exceeds 250 000. During the early 1970s, the White Australia Policy is abolished and the immigration intake is greatly reduced due to economic recession and high levels of unemployment. Emphasis is placed on family reunion and, from 1975, on the resettlement of refugees. In the latter half of the 1970s, the net proportion of migrants from the United Kingdom falls significantly and the Fraser Government begins a process of institutionalising the multicultural reality of Australian society.

Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1973, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Canberra, 1973, pp. 140 and 156

1971

In November, Hon. Dr. Alexander (Jim) Forbes MP succeeds Lynch as Minister in the McMahon Liberal Government.

 

1972

Idi Amin's regime expels 80 000 Asians from Uganda. In October, the Australian Government grants entry to 198. In Parliament, Arthur Calwell, who had been Australia's first Minister for Immigration (19451949) in the Chifley Government, expresses concern about their admission but Dr. Forbes, the Immigration Minister, states that the McMahon Government, recognising the humanitarian problem, will admit only a small number 'who are qualified in professions to practise in Australia and who can be absorbed readily in those professions'.

For Calwell's position, see: House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1972, p. 2741

For Forbes, see: House of Representatives, Debates, 22 August 1972, p. 468

1972

The election of the Whitlam Labor Government in December sees the Hon. Al Grassby MP appointed as Minister for Immigration.

 

1973

In January, the new Whitlam Government announces that future immigration policy would not distinguish between immigrants on the basis of race, colour or nationality. The White Australia Policy is finally abolished. The implications of this new policy for refugees are not tested until 1975, with refugee crises in East Timor and Vietnam.

Jupp, op. cit, p. 119

1973

In September, a military coup in Chile overthrows the socialist government of Salvadore Allende, and Australia takes in Chilean refugees. The Chilean program has bipartisan support and marks a break from previous refugee programs that tended to support refugees who were fleeing Communist governments. Between 1974 and 1981, about 6000 Chileans are taken in and, thereafter until the ending of military rule in 1990, hundreds continue to be admitted each year as part of either the Special Humanitarian Program (introduced in 1981) or family reunion program. The Chilean population in Australia increases from 3760 at the 1971 census to 24 042 in 1991.

'Chileans' in J. Jupp (ed.), The Australian people: an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 195197

1974

Displaced persons from Cyprus are admitted after the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus. The Cypriot population in Australia increases from 13 267 at the 1971 census to 21 629 in 1976.

'Greek Cypriots', ibid., pp. 419420

1974

The Department of Immigration is disbanded and a Department of Labour and Immigration established by the Whitlam Government. Hon. Clyde Cameron MP succeeds Grassby as Minister in June.

 

1975

Australia has received approximately 300 000 refugees and displaced persons since 1947, with the great majority assisted by government with passage and settlement services.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '76, Canberra, 1976, p. 8

1975

The defeat of United States-backed regimes in Vietnam is accompanied by massive displacement of Vietnamese people from their homes. Refugees flee to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, ChronologyAustralia and Indo-Chinese refugees, 197580, Canberra, 1981, p. 1

1975

In April and May, the Royal Australian Air Force evacuates 2000 Vietnamese refugees and the Whitlam Government announces categories of Vietnamese citizens who are eligible for temporary entry into Australia: spouses and children of Vietnamese students already in Australia; spouses and under 21-year-old children of Australian citizens subject to completion of Australian citizenship formalities, and Vietnamese with a long and close association with the Australian presence in Vietnam whose life is considered to be in danger. The latter are selected on a case by case basis. Australia informs the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of its willingness to accept refugees. Resident status is granted to students in Australia under the Colombo Plan and privately from both Vietnam and Cambodia who apply for it. In June 1976, admission policy is extended to Lao students. Visitors and other temporary entrants from South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are granted resident status subject to health and character checks. By the end of 1975, Australia has selected about 400 Vietnamese refugees from camps in Guam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

ibid.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '76, Canberra, 1976, p. 15

1975

In June, Hon. James McClelland MP replaces Cameron as Immigration and Labour Minister in the Whitlam Government.

 

1975

Violent civil war in East Timor in August 1975 produces a wave of about 2500 evacuees to Darwin. About 700 agree to go to Portugal but the remaining group, which includes families without breadwinners, the elderly and unaccompanied children, are accommodated in Commonwealth Government hostels in Sydney and Melbourne. The December invasion of East Timor by Indonesian military forces leads to widespread resistance and guerilla warfare that lasts until independence is achieved in 2002. Throughout the 25-year struggle, a continuous flow of Timor-born people seek refuge in Australia. At the 1996 census there are an estimated 9200 Timorese-born people in Australia.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '76, Canberra, 1976, p. 9

'Timorese', in Jupp, op. cit., p. 706

1975

In November, following the appointment of a Coalition 'caretaker' government by the Governor-General, the Hon. Anthony Street MP becomes Minister for Labour and Immigration.

 

1975

In December, following the general election, the Fraser Liberal Government establishes a new Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, with Hon. Michael Mackellar MP as Minister.

 

1976

On 26 January, the Fraser Government offers an amnesty to prohibited immigrants who have over-stayed their visas. The period in which applications may be made for amnesty expires on 30 April. There are four categories of prohibited immigrant: 'people who are required to have entry permits and who enter without them, people whose temporary entry permits expire or are cancelled while they are still in Australia, people exempted from the entry permit requirement who cease to be exempted while in Australia, and people convicted of criminal offences overseas or who have been deported from any country or who suffer from certain disabilities, whose entry permits do not bear special endorsements'. The amnesty applies to 'over-stayers'.

Review '76, op. cit., p. 17 and 19

1976

An Australian team is sent to Thailand in March to process Indo-Chinese refugees there. A total of 568 refugees are accepted and admitted.

ibid., p. 8

1976

On 27 April, a small unauthorised boat carrying five refugees from Vietnam reaches Darwin. It is the first of 56 such boats to arrive over the next six years. The term 'boat people' becomes current. A total of 1037 refugees are admitted from Indo-China in the 19751976 year.

Chronology - Australia and Indo-Chinese refugees, 197580, op. cit., p. 3

1976

In May, Minister Mackellar invites the Timorese who were admitted at the end of 1975 to apply for resident status. More than a thousand take up the offer.

Review 76, op. cit., p. 15

1976

Civil war in Lebanon results in the deaths of 50 000 people and displacement of about 600 000 Lebanese and 150 000 Palestinians from Lebanon. The Australian Embassy in Beirut is evacuated in March. Visas are granted to any relatives of Australian residents who have suffered extreme hardship as a result of the war, provided they meet health and character requirements. In the first half of 1976, more than 800 Lebanese are admitted. The flow continues with the worsening war and by 1981 the Lebanon-born community has increased by more than 16 000.

ibid., p. 9

A. and T. Batrouney, The Lebanese in Australia, AE Press, Melbourne, 1985, pp. 8386

1976

The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence issues its report, Australia and the Refugee Problem, based on its examination in 1975 of the plight and circumstances of Vietnamese refugees and the Australian response to them. The report points to the 'complete lack of policy for the acceptance of people into Australia as refugees rather than as normal migrants' and recommends as a matter of urgency 'an approved and comprehensive set of policy guidelines and the establishment of appropriate machinery' to be applied to refugee situations.

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Australia and the Refugee Problem: the plight and circumstances of Vietnamese and other refugees, AGPS, Canberra, 1976, p. 77, p. 89

1976

A new detention centre providing 'specially designed security accommodation for up to 48 people awaiting deportation' is opened at Villawood, Sydney, on 15 November. It is called the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. Existing detention facilities in Melbourne and Brisbane were built prior to 1945. Prior to 1976, prohibited immigrants in Sydney were detained at North Head quarantine station and Long Bay Gaol.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '77, Canberra, 1977, p. 22

1976

Australia admits a total of 4431 refugees in 19751976, of whom 1037 are Indo-Chinese. Total immigration intake for the year is 52 748the lowest since World War Two.

Review '76, op. cit., pp. 5, 8

1977

With a commitment to admitting greater numbers of refugees, Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Hon. Michael Mackellar, visits Thailand in February to assess the Indo-Chinese refugee problem, and visits Cyprus to confer with government officials and the Australian task force assisting Lebanese refugees.

Review '77, op. cit., p. 7

1977

In February, the first Migrant Resource Centre is established in Melbourne. It is operated by the Australian Greek Welfare Society, with Government funding.

ibid., p. 1

1977

In March, Minister Mackellar announces an agreement with Indonesia on arrangements to reunite East Timorese in Australia with close relatives from Timor. Australia also allows for the return to Australia of Timorese who went voluntarily to Portugal from Darwin in 19751976. Normal migration requirements apply, with emphasis on family reunion.

ibid., p. 8

1977

In a landmark statement on 24 May, Minister Mackellar announces in Parliament a strategy and a series of initiatives for the development and implementation of a comprehensive refugee policy. It is the first occasion on which a coherent and specific refugee policy has been enunciated in the Parliament. Prior to this time, refugees were admitted as migrants. The statement draws on key recommendations of the 1976 Australia and the Refugee Problem report and includes a commitment to the formulation of procedures for designating refugee situations and appropriate responses to them; the establishment of an inter-departmental committee to advise the Minister, in consultation with voluntary agencies, on Australia's capacity to accept refugees; an examination of ways in which voluntary agencies may be encouraged to participate in refugee resettlement; and the strengthening of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs' Refugee Unit. A significant aspect of the new policy relates to the humanitarian acceptance of people 'in refugee-type situations who do not fall strictly within the UNHCR mandate or within Convention definitions'. Australian staff are temporarily stationed in Thailand to organise a 'regular intake' of Indo-Chinese refugees.

Hon. Michael Mackellar MP, Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, 'Statement', House of Representatives, Debates, 24 May 1977, pp. 171316.

Review '77, op. cit., pp. 1415

1978

The UNHCR estimates the global refugee population at 3.1 million. This figure does not include other humanitarian categories of concern to the UNHCR or Palestinians assisted by the UN Relief and Works Agency.

UNHCR, The State of the world's refugees, 1997-1998, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 54

1978

In March, the Determination of Refugee Status Committee (DORS) is established on an inter-departmental basis, to handle applications from people in, or arriving in, Australia seeking refugee status as defined by the UN Convention. DORS consists of representatives of the Departments of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Attorney-General. All 'boat people' have to apply to DORS.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '78, Canberra, 1978, p. 28

1978

In addition to DORS, the Fraser Government establishes a Standing Inter-departmental Committee on Refugees to advise the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on a range of refugee issues and to regularly review the refugee intake. The Committee comprises senior officers of Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Employment and Industrial Relations, Social Security, and Health and Education. The Committee maintains contact with voluntary agencies. A separate Refugee and Special Programs Branch is created within the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

ibid.

1978

On 17 May, Minister Mackellar announces initiatives relating to the plight of Indo-Chinese refugees. These include moves to internationalise the approach to the situation by concerted action with the United States and other receiving nations to persuade more nations to accept refugees for resettlement; a decision to accept 9000 Indo-Chinese refugees in 19781979; approaches to regional governments seeking their cooperation in holding Vietnamese vessels in transit to enable processing of 'boat people' in those countries; and an approach to the UNHCR seeking greater involvement among receiving countries and regional governments.

ibid.

1978

In June, Dr. Moss Cass MP, the Opposition Spokesman on Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, writes in The Australian newspaper's regular column, 'The A.L.P. View', that 'Between April 1976 and January this year, 1037 Boat People arrived in Australia: none were sent back. The implications of a government policy which accepts queue-jumping on this scale are obvious'. The concept of 'queue-jumping' is evoked from time to time by spokespersons for both the major parties. In March 1982, it is used in the House of Representatives by Ian Macphee, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the Fraser Government. (See '1982' entry.)

Moss Cass, 'Stop this unjust queue jumping', The Australian, 29 June 1978

1978

The Galbally Reportthe Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrantsis tabled in Parliament in May. The Fraser Government announces expenditure of $49.7 million on migrant services (English language teaching, initial settlement services, ethnic media, establishment of an Institute of Multicultural Affairs, and others) over three years to implement Galbally's recommendations. Acting on the report, the Government establishes Migrant Resource Centres, reshapes the Adult Migrant Education Program, provides grants for migrant welfare workers, establishes the Institute for Multicultural Affairs and expands the Telephone Interpreter Service.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '78, Canberra, 1978, p. 7

1978

As part of a review of immigration, Minister Mackellar announces new policies in June, essentially extending family reunion, reaffirming a commitment to humanitarian and compassionate responsibilities and introducing a numerical 'points' system to ensure that future immigrants have the skills and qualities best suited to Australia's national needs. The new program is based on three-year rolling programs, with an assumed net intake of 70 000 per annum. Refugees are to be admitted under criteria separately established for each refugee program within the guidelines announced in May 1977.

ibid., pp. 1, 13, 18.

1978

In June, the Department's annual report states that 'Efforts to exercise greater control over the prohibited immigrant problem by increased search activity are inhibited by the lack of adequate detention facilities'. Only Sydney has a modern detention facility, the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. The great majority of prohibited immigrants are people who overstay their visas.

ibid., p. 35

197778

Australia admits 75 732 migrants, of whom 7117 are Indo-Chinese refugees (5458 Vietnamese, 1331 Laotians and 328 Cambodians), mainly from camps in Thailand and Malaysia. However, 19771978 also sees the arrival of the largest ever numbers of unauthorised 'boat people': 1430, who travel in 37 small boats. They are mainly from Vietnam.

ibid., p. 2.

197778

Under the special programs for people who are not refugees but who gain entry on a humanitarian basis, Australia receives Soviet Jews and White Russians from China, in addition to Timorese from Portugal and Lebanese. Refugees arrive in Australia in 19771978 from more than 40 countries. A total of 9597 refugees are admitted.

ibid., p. 28

1978

The UNHCR estimates the global refugee population at 3.1 million. This figure does not include other humanitarian categories of concern to the UNHCR or Palestinians assisted by the UN Relief and Works Agency.

UNHCR, The State of the world's refugees, 1997-1998, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 54

1978

In March, the Determination of Refugee Status Committee (DORS) is established on an inter-departmental basis, to handle applications from people in, or arriving in, Australia seeking refugee status as defined by the UN Convention. DORS consists of representatives of the Departments of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Attorney-General. All 'boat people' have to apply to DORS.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '78, Canberra, 1978, p. 28

1978

In addition to DORS, the Fraser Government establishes a Standing Inter-departmental Committee on Refugees to advise the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on a range of refugee issues and to regularly review the refugee intake. The Committee comprises senior officers of Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Employment and Industrial Relations, Social Security, and Health and Education. The Committee maintains contact with voluntary agencies. A separate Refugee and Special Programs Branch is created within the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

ibid.

1978

On 17 May, Minister Mackellar announces initiatives relating to the plight of Indo-Chinese refugees. These include moves to internationalise the approach to the situation by concerted action with the United States and other receiving nations to persuade more nations to accept refugees for resettlement; a decision to accept 9000 Indo-Chinese refugees in 19781979; approaches to regional governments seeking their cooperation in holding Vietnamese vessels in transit to enable processing of 'boat people' in those countries; and an approach to the UNHCR seeking greater involvement among receiving countries and regional governments.

ibid.

1978

In June, Dr. Moss Cass MP, the Opposition Spokesman on Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, writes in The Australian newspaper's regular column, 'The A.L.P. View', that 'Between April 1976 and January this year, 1037 Boat People arrived in Australia: none were sent back. The implications of a government policy which accepts queue-jumping on this scale are obvious'. The concept of 'queue-jumping' is evoked from time to time by spokespersons for both the major parties. In March 1982, it is used in the House of Representatives by Ian Macphee, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in the Fraser Government. (See '1982' entry.)

Moss Cass, 'Stop this unjust queue jumping', The Australian, 29 June 1978

1978

The Galbally Reportthe Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrantsis tabled in Parliament in May. The Fraser Government announces expenditure of $49.7 million on migrant services (English language teaching, initial settlement services, ethnic media, establishment of an Institute of Multicultural Affairs, and others) over three years to implement Galbally's recommendations. Acting on the report, the Government establishes Migrant Resource Centres, reshapes the Adult Migrant Education Program, provides grants for migrant welfare workers, establishes the Institute for Multicultural Affairs and expands the Telephone Interpreter Service.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '78, Canberra, 1978, p. 7

1978

As part of a review of immigration, Minister Mackellar announces new policies in June, essentially extending family reunion, reaffirming a commitment to humanitarian and compassionate responsibilities and introducing a numerical 'points' system to ensure that future immigrants have the skills and qualities best suited to Australia's national needs. The new program is based on three-year rolling programs, with an assumed net intake of 70 000 per annum. Refugees are to be admitted under criteria separately established for each refugee program within the guidelines announced in May 1977.

ibid., pp. 1, 13, 18.

1978

In June, the Department's annual report states that 'Efforts to exercise greater control over the prohibited immigrant problem by increased search activity are inhibited by the lack of adequate detention facilities'. Only Sydney has a modern detention facility, the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. The great majority of prohibited immigrants are people who overstay their visas.

ibid., p. 35

197778

Australia admits 75 732 migrants, of whom 7117 are Indo-Chinese refugees (5458 Vietnamese, 1331 Laotians and 328 Cambodians), mainly from camps in Thailand and Malaysia. However, 19771978 also sees the arrival of the largest ever numbers of unauthorised 'boat people': 1430, who travel in 37 small boats. They are mainly from Vietnam.

ibid., p. 2.

197778

Under the special programs for people who are not refugees but who gain entry on a humanitarian basis, Australia receives Soviet Jews and White Russians from China, in addition to Timorese from Portugal and Lebanese. Refugees arrive in Australia in 19771978 from more than 40 countries. A total of 9597 refugees are admitted.

ibid., p. 28

1978

In keeping with the commitment to seek an international solution to the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis, Minister Mackellar undertakes two significant overseas missions in the second half of the year. In July, he meets with representatives of South East Asian governments to explore ways of maintaining an orderly processing of Indo-Chinese refugees and of securing greater international cooperation in resettling them and, in December, he attends UNHCR consultations in Geneva to discuss Indo-Chinese refugees. The participating countries offer to double the number of resettlement places and pledge increased financial assistance to the UNHCR.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '79, Canberra, 1979, p. 13

1978

In keeping with the commitment to seek an international solution to the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis, Minister Mackellar undertakes two significant overseas missions in the second half of the year. In July, he meets with representatives of South East Asian governments to explore ways of maintaining an orderly processing of Indo-Chinese refugees and of securing greater international cooperation in resettling them and, in December, he attends UNHCR consultations in Geneva to discuss Indo-Chinese refugees. The participating countries offer to double the number of resettlement places and pledge increased financial assistance to the UNHCR.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '79, Canberra, 1979, p. 13

1979

In January, Minister Mackellar announces policy in regard to the 'export' of ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese by officials in Vietnam who take bribes and transport them on vessels flying flags of convenience. Australia will not deal with the owners or masters of such vessels and any passengers will be denied entry. In June, exodus from Vietnam reaches a peak with the continuing expulsion of ethnic Chinese.

ibid., p. 6

1979

In keeping with the strategy of an international solution, Minister Mackellar visits Manila, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in May. In light of the Indonesian Government's decision to establish an island processing centre, the Australian Government offers the UNHCR $250 000 toward the centre's establishment.

ibid., p. 13

1979

In March the Committee for the Allocation of Loan Funds to Refugees from Indo-China (CALFRIC) is incorporated in New South Wales to administer refugee resettlement loans. CALFRIC plays an important role in helping refugees move from Migrant Centres into their own homes and, by 1982, has assisted 18 000 with small interest-free loans funded by DIEA.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '82, Canberra, 1982, p 36

1979

Commonwealth funding for the Adult Migrant and Refugee Education Program reaches $18 million, three times the sum of four years earlier. The program began in 1951 but was limited to part-time, mainly evening, courses and correspondence courses until 1969, when it was expanded. Between 1969 and 1972, full-time courses were introduced, along with the Home Tutor Scheme, migrant education television and courses-in-industry.

Review '79, op. cit., p. 27

1979

Fewer unauthorised boats arrive in 19781979: six boats carrying 351 people. Since 1975, Australia has admitted 22 819 Indo-Chinese refugees18 962 Vietnamese, 2985 Laotians and 872 Cambodians. Since the first unauthorised boat arrival in April 1976, 50 other boats have reached northern Australia, carrying 2011 people.

ibid., p. 13

1979

At mid-July, there are 373 000 refugees in camps in South East Asia.

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '80, Canberra, p. 46

1979

On 2021 July, an international conference on refugees, attended by 66 countries, is held in Geneva, under UN auspices. Australia announces it will increase its resettlement program to 14 000 in 19791980. Other countries offer to increase their intake, bringing an increase of pledged resettlement places from 125 000 to 260 000 world wide. Also, from this conference, the Government of Vietnam pledges to stop the outflow of 'boat people'. The conference results in a decrease in the number of boats leaving Vietnam.

ibid.

1979

While the Indo-Chinese remain the main refugee group, Australia continues its special refugee programs for East Europeans who have gained asylum in Western Europe, taking in about 300 a year, with assistance from the Australian Council of Churches and the Federal Catholic Immigration Committee; Soviet Jews, under a program of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (in 19781979, about 400 families totalling about 1200 people); Chileans who have fled to Argentina, and Iraqi Assyrians who sought refuge in Greece; and East Timorese under a family reunion arrangement with Indonesia.

Review '79, op. cit., pp. 1315

1979

The Australian Refugee Advisory Council is established in October to advise the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on aspects of the movement to and settlement in Australia of refugees from all sources.

Review '80, op. cit., p. 5

1979

In December, the first application is approved under the Community Refugee Settlement Scheme (CRSS). Under this sponsorship scheme CRSS refugees are moved directly into the community where they are cared for by groups which have undertaken to provide initial accommodation, help with finding employment and general social support. The first group, consisting of 20 Indo-Chinese families, is settled at Whyalla, South Australia, in February 1980. The scheme is extended to Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales. The CRSS is an alternative to government-run Migrant Centres; an objective is to limit residential concentrations of particular groups. By 1982, there are 400 sponsor groups throughout Australia, mainly churches and service clubs. That year, the Fraser Government introduces a system of grants to support CRSS sponsors. Nearly 5000 refugees had been sponsored by the CRSS up to June 1982.

ibid., p. 21

Review '82, op. cit., p. 34

1979

In December, Hon. Ian Macphee MP succeeds Mackellar as Minister in the Fraser Government.

 

1980

In February, the total number of Indo-Chinese refugees settled in third countries since April 1975 reaches 777 913, of which 251 000 are in the Peoples' Republic of China. Australia has taken in 32 402.

Chronology - Australia and Indo-Chinese refugees, 197580, op. cit., p. 11

1980

A total of 19 954 refugees are admitted during 19791980nearly a quarter of total settler arrivals.

Review '80, op. cit., p. 40

1980

Despite the success of the Geneva Conference in helping to decrease the number of 'boat people' and the caseload of refugees in countries of first asylum awaiting resettlement, there are still 118 076 Laotians, 8443 Kampucheans and 7512 Vietnamese 'boat people' in Thailand. An additional 2520 Vietnamese entered Thailand overland.

ibid., p. 47

1980

In 19791980, 2500 Eastern Europeans are admitted from countries of first asylum in Western Europe, mainly Austria. Other refugee groups in 19791980 are: Assyrians in Greece (250 cases admitted); Chileans (in late 1978, UNHCR invited Australia to be part of an international operation to resettle Chileans in Argentina who were under threat of deportation. In March 1979, Minister Mackellar agreed to accept up to fifty family units); Cubans (small group is admitted in June 1980, following Castro's decision to allow mass exodus early in 1980) and White Russians from China (about 12000 admitted as refugees since 1947 but numbers declined in 1970s). The passage and resettlement of the White Russians is handled by the Australian Council of Churches. Only about 200 are admitted in 19791980.

ibid., p. 48

1980

Introduction of 'special humanitarian programs' for cases where people are in need ('individual members of minority groups around the world suffering human rights violations or serious discrimination') but are not refugees by the UNHCR definition. These were in 19791980: Soviet Jews in Europe, mainly sponsored by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (1500 admitted in 19791980); China family reunion, as a result of liberalisation of Chinese government policy on exit permits (740 admitted in 19791980); East Timor family reunion (298 admitted from December 1978 to June 1980); and Vietnam family reunion (320 sponsored relatives allowed to leave Vietnam for Australia by June 1980).

ibid., p. 50

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review '81, Canberra, 1981, p. 49

1980

In June, Minister Macphee announces an amnesty: people in Australia without permanent resident status may apply for permanency under the Regularisation of Status Program, if they arrived before 1 January. They are given until 31 December to apply.

ibid., p. 56

1980

In November, the Australian Refugee Advisory Council meets in Canberra to discuss the issue of recognition of professional or trade qualifications held by some refugees.

ibid., p. 3

1980

A major earthquake in Italy in November leads to special provisions to allow family members of Australian residents to migrate to Australia. Sponsors are not required to have resided in Australia for the usual period of time. The special arrangements apply until 27 Februarythree months after the earthquake.

ibid., pp. 45

1980

In June, the 600th unaccompanied refugee child is admitted into Australia as part of the intake from South East Asia. Their status on admission is as wards of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs but they are cared for by State and Territory child welfare authorities. They are paid an allowance the same as other wards of the state. Through the UNHCR, the Australian government seeks to trace the whereabouts of any relatives of the children, only granting them permanent residence in cases where no relatives can be located.

Review '80, op. cit., p. 21

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Commonwealth of Australia
Chronologies are written for Members of Parliament, being located on the Internet they can be read by members of the public, however some linked items are available to Members of Parliament only, due to copyright reasons.


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