Challenging Your Research

The Chinese Community

The Australian Chinese community can trace its history back many generations, all the way to the gold rushes of the mid-nineteenth century. While always subject to strict immigration controls, the members of the Chinese community welcomed Federation with an extravagant dragon dance in the Federation celebrations in Melbourne. One of the first acts of the new Commonwealth Parliament, however, would be to tightly restrict the immigration of non-Europeans under the Immigration Restriction Act. For communities already in Australia, it caused emotional turmoil and economic hardship. The story of Leong Har, a businessman in Melbourne, is one such case.  

The Indigenous Community

Indigenous people were another group who participated in welcoming Federation, but they did not immediately benefit from the formation of the new Commonwealth. Aboriginal people in the Colony of South Australia had had the right to vote before Federation, but their voting rights under the Commonwealth Parliament would be eroded in the years after Federation. They were restored in 1962. The voters of Point McLeay Station, an Aboriginal mission in the Colony of South Australia, voted overwhelmingly in favour of Federation. See Federation poll results.  


Read Our Federation Journey – A White Australia, produced by the Museum of Victoria.  

1. Find and list the reasons given in the text against non-European immigration.

2. Using the information in Leong Har’s story and Our Federation Journey – A White Australia, write a letter to a member of the Ministry (Government) in the First Commonwealth Parliament outlining your case against restricting immigration.  

3. Revisit the Federation flyer or postcard you produced earlier in this investigation. How would you modify it to include all the communities that were present in Australia at Federation?