Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Melbourne - a tiny bit of history

Graffiti, Melbourne
From Adelaide, we took an overnight bus to Melbourne. The journey was OK, but we didn't get much sleep, and we couldn't check in to our Airbnb place until the afternoon, so we were very grateful that a friend from our South America trip, who lives in Melbourne, had offered to pick us up and go back to her place. Being used to overnight bus trips herself, she packed us straight off to bed, and then when we were suitably refreshed after a few hours sleep, we all went out for brunch. Now that is what I call a welcome.

Our Airbnb was in a great location in Fitzroy, just off Brunswick Street. This was a carefully selected area, not too far from the centre, but right in the heart of the eating and drinking hub - and just around the corner from a really excellent cocktail bar.

You may have guessed that cultural and historical aspects of the city were not high on our list of things to do here!

Immigration Museum, Melbourne

We did at least go to the Immigration Museum, which gave an interesting insight into how Australia has handled immigration over the years. When the Federation of Australia was formed in 1901, they brought in the Immigration Restriction Act, which was one aspect of the unofficial 'White Australia Policy' which sought to prevent the entry of any non white-European immigrants.

In the preceeding years, there had been actions to reduce the number of Chinese coming to work in the mining industry - not because they weren't good workers, but because they worked co-operatively, which made them more effective and therefore more successful, and the white Australian miners didn't like that.

Immigration Museum, Melbourne
As Alfred Deakin, the then Attorney General is quoted as saying, "It is not the bad qualities, but the good qualities of these alien races that make them so dangerous to us. It is their inexhaustible energy, their power of applying themselves to new tasks, their endurance and low standard of living that make them such competitors." And according to the then Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, "The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman." Any of this sounding familiar to those of us from the UK right now?

Now at the time, the UK was a little uncomfortable with the overtly racist approach of 'whites only', (albeit not so uncomfortable as to block it,) so Australia opted for a supposedly more subtle approach of introducing a dictation test which any non white-Europeans had to pass to gain entry. The museum had some examples of the fifty word test, and I can pretty much guarantee that there is a sizeable chunk of 'indigenous white' British people that wouldn't be able to pass it, let alone people for whom English is a second language.
Immigration Museum, Melbourne

And the difficulty wasn't the only issue. The test could be done in any European language, chosen by the officials. So there are examples of people from Malta, with great English, being given the test in Dutch. One political activist, who was fluent in several languages, was denied entry for failing the test after being given it in Gaelic. This test was in use in Australia right up until 1958.

Asian migration to Australia only really began in the late 1960s, after the Labor Party removed the 'White Australia' policy from its platform.

Immigration Museum, Melbourne
Of course at this time, the real indigenous population of Australia, the people who really did have a legitimate gripe about immigrants, were still not actually counted as citizens of Australia when a census was done. A referendum in 1967 overwhelmingly voted to change this and other discrepancies, seeing the first major step forward for the Aboriginal people.

Some sources even suggest that, prior to these changes in legislation, Aboriginal people were in fact counted as part of the Flora and Fauna of Australia, rather than as people. This seems unlikely to be technically true, but the fact that this is still referred to is probably a good indication of how they were treated at the time.
Immigration Museum, Melbourne

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