Australia in the 1960s

Abolishing the White Australia Policy

By 1965, both major political parties had removed 'White Australia' from their political platforms. Prime minister Harold Holt became convinced that Australia's immigration policy could no longer be based on the racial exclusion of non-European people.

One of the first legislative changes Holt implemented upon becoming prime minister was to allow a number of non-European 'temporary residents' to become permanent residents and Australian citizens according to the same rules that apply to European migrants. This was the beginning of the end of the White Australia Policy that had shaped Australia's approach to immigration since Federation.

During the 1940s and 1950s, most migration to Australia included not only British but other European ethnic communities. But now new communities from countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt began to arrive. By the early 1970s, more than five per cent of the annual intake of Australia's immigrants was from Asia.

A snapshot of 1968

  • January
    • Senator John Gorton becomes prime minister after the disappearance of Harold Holt, presumed drowned off Portsea, Victoria.
    • The Tet Offensive is launched during the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese troops attempt to take significant South Vietnamese strongholds in the one offensive action.

  • February
    • The Draft Resistance Movement is formed. They declare that the group not only opposes conscription, but intends to destroy it.
    • WC Wentworth is appointed the first minister for Aboriginal Affairs, although he has no department under his control.

  • May
    • A mineral investment boom begins on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).
    • The Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi visits Australia.

  • December
    • The breathalyser test for drink-driving is introduced in NSW.


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