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More People Imperative: Immigration to Australia, 1901–39


2. Immigration Restriction Policy

The most important legislative developments concerning immigration between Federation and World War II were the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 and its subsequent amendments. Thus for the whole of the period under review, 1901–39, the 'white Australia' policy was in operation, preventing non-Europeans and other immigrants considered at the time as undesirable, from permanent entry. The 1901 Act also prohibited contract workers but from 1905 the Contract Immigrants' Act allowed immigrants to enter Australia under contract, provided that approval was given by the Minister for External Affairs. Such approval was generally granted if the immigrants did not threaten the jobs of Australian workers, if current wages were paid and the immigrants were not used to break strikes. Other relevant Acts were the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901, the Naturalisation Act 1903, the War Precautions Act 1914 and 1915 (repealed in 1920), the Aliens Registration Act 1920, and the Enemy Aliens Act 1920, repealed (with the exception of Turks) in 1925. These Acts are briefly described in the Chronology in Appendix 2.

Through various amendments during these years this restrictive legislation was tightened up and in some cases extended: in 1905 the provisions regarding the application of the Dictation Test were revised (allowing the language used in the test to be 'any prescribed language' rather than a European language); in 1912, more stringent health provisions for immigrants were introduced; in 1924–25, substantive regulations regarding the entry of Europeans were adopted (see Chapter 4 on 'White Alien' Immigration Policy). These acts reflected the desire to preserve not just the 'white' but also the British predominance within the Australian population.

REGISTER OF EXEMPTIONS UNDER IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION ACT, 1925–31
Canberra
Series: A260
Quantity: 9cm
Recorded by: 1925–28: Department of Home and Territories, Central Office (CA 15); 1928–31: Department of Home Affairs, Central Office (CA 24)

Examples of Series and Items

Series descriptions throughout the Guide appear in upper case and in bold type. Note that descriptions of items within particular series are a selection only of what is held in the National Archives. All record descriptions are organised by series; items within series are listed in chronological order of the starting date they cover.

MISCELLANY, 1880–1925
Melbourne
This series contains files and individual papers created by the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Home and Territories (policy departments) and the Customs and Excise Office of the Department of Trade and Customs. They were originally withdrawn from the culling of early records and may be all that has survived of records of the period.
Series: MP56/12
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1916–25: Department of Home and Territories, Central Office, Records and Passports Branch (CA 15)
Immigration Restriction Act; Index to Register of Naturalisation Certificates' [35 pages, no date]
This file consists of a book listing Naturalisation Certificates and their numbers in the Register.
MP56/12, 3
Image 3: The Naturalisation Act 1903

Image 3: The Naturalisation Act 1903
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Various documents relating to late 1880 to early 1900 migrants; eg samples of certificates of character, reports of immigration officers, passports, etc. [1 cm, late 1880s to 1910]
On the cover of this file there is a note, viz. 'Various documents relating to late 1880 to early 1900 migrants. May be of interest to some antiquarian in about 50–100 years time'. It contains various notes and letters, character reports, applications for Certificates of Exemption from the Chinese Act, Certificates of Naturalisation, applications for hawker licenses and Certificates of Domicile relating to non-Europeans (Chinese and Indian) from 1900 to 1913. A number of the documents concern Poon Gooey, market gardener of Horsham, who applied for permission to bring his wife, Ham See, to Victoria in 1900. Extracts from the Commonwealth Gazette and the Victoria Government Gazette are included.
MP56/12, 6
Image 4: Poon Gooey, a market gardener of Horsham, Victoria c.1910.

Image 4: Poon Gooey, a market gardener of Horsham, Victoria c.1910.
NAA: B5656, 25
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Image 5: This character reference helped Poon Gooey obtain permission to return to China and re-enter Australia with his wife, who was granted permission to stay for six months in 1911.

Image 5: This character reference helped Poon Gooey obtain permission to return to China and re-enter Australia with his wife, who was granted permission to stay for six months in 1911.
NAA: B5656, 24
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GENERAL ADMINISTRATION, METHODS AND PRINCIPLES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1899–1956
Perth
These files show the methods and principles to be used in continuing statistical activity in Western Australia and the general administrative procedures to be followed.
Series: PP95/1
Quantity: 13.4 metres
Recorded by: 1899-1956: Colonial Secretary's Office from 1926, Chief Secretary's Office (CA 1256)
Colonial Secretary's Office, 'Statistics and legislation regarding immigration since 1884' [14 pages, 1884–1905]
This is a small file concerning a query (in French), forwarded from the Government Statistician in June 1905, from the International Institute of Statisticians in Rome, relating to details about immigration and emigration to WA, in particular which colonial laws had been superseded by Commonwealth Acts. The reply is enclosed. [Related files with particulars on immigration to and emigration from WA are: PP131/1, 1904/139 (1904); PP131/1, 1906/154 (1904–5); and PP131/1, 1908/116 (1908). PP131/1, 1903/106 gives details on assisted immigration for 1902. Again the correspondence is mostly in French.]
PP95/1, 1900/114
GENERAL ADMINISTRATION, METHODS AND PRINCIPLES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1898–1960
Perth
These files show the methods and principles to be used in continuing statistical activity in Western Australia and the general administrative procedures to be followed.
Series: PP131/1
Quantity: 12.6 metres
Recorded by: 1899–1956: Colonial Secretary's Office. From 1926, Chief Secretary's Office (CA 1256)
Colonial Secretary's Office, 'Extract from The West Australian of 11 February 1903' [6 pages, 1903]
This refers to a complaint by Messrs G F Pearce and H de Largie, Western Australian representatives in the Federal Senate, over the numbers of Asians admitted to WA in 1902 and 1903. A West Australian cutting on the subject is included. Correspondence from the government statistician to the resident Magistrate, Broome, relates to investigations of the figures.
PP131/1, 1903/69
GENERAL AND CLASSIFIED CORRESPONDENCE, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1902–
Melbourne
This is the main correspondence series of the Collector of Customs in Melbourne. The annual single number registration was prefixed until 1962, by 'C' and 'E' (common to all regions) and since then by 'V' (for Victoria). This series probably began in 1902, after the Immigration Restriction Act was assented to on 23 December 1901. The variations in the subjects dealt with reflects the changing functions of the Departments of Trade and Customs, and Customs and Excise. In general, functions shown are immigration restrictions, tariff classifications, excise, prohibited literature, administration, smuggling, prosecutions, shipping, exports and imports. Because of extensive culling by the Department the extant files up to the 1930's relate almost exclusively to immigration restriction. This function was carried out by the Collector of Customs in association with the Department of External Affairs and its successors. There is very little correspondence with the Central Office of Trade and Customs on this subject. No early control records have survived; the earliest date found in subject and name index cards held by the Department is 9 April 1923.
Series: B13
Quantity: 54.9 Metres
Recorded by: 1902–85: Collector of Customs, Melbourne (CA 789)
Department of External Affairs, 'Return required under Sect. 17 of Immigration Act to include all persons to whom educational test is not applied' [2 pages, 1902]
This contains a letter from Atlee Hunt, Secretary, Department of External Affairs, to the Collector of Customs, Melbourne, in 1902 regarding Section 17 of the Immigration Restriction Act which required that returns be furnished by the Minister to Parliament for all prohibited immigrants whether the education test was applied or not.
B13, 1902/1515
Image 6: Under section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 immigrants who were unable to pass the 'dictation test' were prescribed 'prohibited immigrants'.

Image 6: Under section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 immigrants who were unable to pass the 'dictation test' were prescribed 'prohibited immigrants'.
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Image 7: The <em>Immigration Restriction Act 1901</em>.

Image 7: The Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
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Image 8: The <em>Immigration Restriction Act 1901</em>.

Image 8: The Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
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Image 9: The <em>Immigration Restriction Act 1901</em>.

Image 9: The Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
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Image 10: The <em>Immigration Restriction Act 1901</em>.

Image 10: The Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
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Department of External Affairs, '12 copies of the Regulations under the Immigration Restriction Act' [1 page, 1902]
Only one short letter dated January 1902, advising of the forwarding of copies of the Immigration Restriction Act and the Regulations from the Department of External Affairs to the Collector of Customs. [Another file of the same series and item number contains a reply from Atlee Hunt, Secretary, Department of External Affairs, and 8 copies of the Regulations.]
B13, 1902/1189
Department of Trade and Customs, 'Immigration Restriction Act. Re Chinese passing from one State to another' [3 pages, 1902]
This contains a request from the Shipping Exchange, Melbourne, in January 1902 on advice regarding Chinese travelling by ship between states. Hand written replies are included.
B13, 1902/464
Collector of Customs, 'Extract from Argus re Immigration Act – Copy of Act & Regulations [8 pages, 1902]
This contains a copy of the Immigration Restriction Act and Regulations of 1901, and two extracts from the Argus on the administration of the Act and a protest from Calcutta.
B13, 1902/212
Department of Trade and Customs, 'Daniel Wong requests copy of Immigration Restriction Act' [2 pages, 1902]
This contains only one short letter from Daniel Wong, Missionary to the Chinese in New Zealand, March 1902, requesting a copy of the Chinese Restriction Act of the Commonwealth in Victoria.
B13, 1902/2815
Customs and Excise Office, Melbourne, 'Educational Test under Immigration Act' [3 pages, 1903]
This contains a letter from Atlee Hunt, Secretary, Department of External Affairs, to the Collector of Customs in 1903, regarding the passing of the Dictation Test by two Indians. As they were only staying temporarily, they should have been issued with Exemption Certificates. The point was made, however, that when a coloured person sought admission to Australia, the test, if administered in English, should be put in such a form and with such stringency as to place its sufficiency beyond doubt. Officers were free to select a passage from any European language and the services of an interpreter could be employed for the dictation of the passage in the language selected.
B13, 1903/6513
Image 11: An example of the types of passages used in the dictation test.

Image 11: An example of the types of passages used in the dictation test.
NAA: A1, 1935/704
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Customs and Excise Office, Melbourne, 'Tests Under Immigration Restriction Acts para 'a' Sect. 3, applicant required to write out and sign passage dictated' [2 pages, 1905]
The Supreme Courts of Western Australia and Victoria held the view that it was insufficient merely to ask an immigrant to write out the prescribed passage – the passage must also be signed. The file contains a letter from Atlee Hunt, Secretary, Department of External Affairs, to the Collector of Customs in 1905, issuing these instructions.
B13, 1905/319
Collector of Customs, 'Cutting from Sydney Herald re efforts to circumvent Alien Immigration Act' [2 pages, 1905]
This contains a newspaper cutting from the Sydney Herald, 16 February 1905, headed 'Alien Immigration Act. Chinese Wiles to Circumvent it' which was sent to the Collector of Customs by Atlee Hunt, Secretary, Department of External Affairs, for the perusal of officers who dealt with the examination of Chinese.
B13, 1905/1680
Collector of Customs, 'Secretary, Department of External Affairs, re Amendments to Immigration Restriction Act. Shipping firms to be notified' [8 pages, 1906]
This refers to amendments to the Immigration Restriction Act applying to the interests of shipping companies doing business between Australia and the rest of the world. There was no longer any provision for the admission of coloured wives and families of persons residing in Australia. The right of persons who had left Australia without procuring papers necessary for their readmission to re-enter, was also removed. A fine of £100 was payable by the masters, owners, agents or charterers of ships who also had to return a prohibited migrant to the port of embarkation and pay maintenance in the interim.
B13, 1906/559
Collector of Customs, 'Breach of Immigration and Customs Act' [9 pages, 1907]
This refers to the conviction and fining in 1907 of a Chinese man trading in Little Bourke Street, for having prohibited imports in his possession. The master of the SS Pocahontas was also prosecuted for a breach of the Immigration Act in respect of the desertion of the same man from his ship's crew.
B13, 1907/7386
Collector of Customs, 'Ah Bing applies for Certificate under Section 4B of the Immigration Act' [7 pages, 1909]
This contains an application for a Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test under section 4B of the Immigration Restriction Act. The applicant was a Chinese laundryman who had resided in Australia for 10 years and was leaving temporarily. The application was approved provided he returned within three years. The certificate contained two photographs, one front view, one profile, and contained a handprint on the reverse side.
B13, 1909/16634
Collector of Customs, ' External Affairs – Evasion of Immigration Restriction Act – Dictation Test' [2 pages, 1912]
This contains a letter, dated 1912, to the Collector of Customs from Atlee Hunt, Secretary, Department of External Affairs, urging the utmost care in dealing with applications for Certificates for Exemption from the Dictation Test. This was in the light of an attempted evasion of the Immigration Restriction Act by a Chinese youth who had been admitted to Australia for educational purposes and attempted by false statements to obtain a Certificate allowing him to return permanently.
B13, 1912/17990
Department of External Affairs, 'Report of Inspector Gabriel on Immigration Work' [11 pages, 1916]
This contains a memorandum from the Department of External Affairs relating to an inspection of Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test (CEDTs) issued under the Immigration Act at the Customs House, Melbourne, from 1913 to 1916. A list of errors and omissions is attached, together with other related correspondence.
B13, 1916/24825
Department of External Affairs, 'External Affairs – authority for Chinese etc. to remain in Australia may be taken as authority to cover refund of deposits under Section 6 of Immigration Act' [2 pages, 1916]
This contains a short letter from Atlee Hunt, July 1916, regarding deposits lodged at the office of the Collector of Customs under Section 6 of the Immigration Act in connection with the readmission of Chinese. Where authority was given for such persons to remain in Australia, such authority was also taken to cover the refund of deposit, unless otherwise advised by the Department of External Affairs.
B13, 1916/19343
Collector of Customs, 'Passengers Under Immigration Act landed from Cephee' [15 pages, 1922–26]
This contains landing permits and information on passengers (Syrians, Russians, Indians, Greeks and Poles) who arrived on the SS Cepheefrom Antwerp via Fremantle and Adelaide in 1926 and came under notice in connection with the Immigration Restriction Act.
B13, 1926/5846
Collector of Customs, 'Passengers under Immigration Act ex Cephee, 23.10.1926' [55 pages, 1925–26]
This contains further information and landing permits of passengers from the SS Cephee above.
B13, 1926/23059
Collector of Customs, 'Immigration Act 1901–25, Dictation Test' [10 pages, 1927]
This contains a circular from the Home and Territories Department to the Collector of Customs, 1927, regarding directions which should be observed in connection with the application of the Dictation Test so that it was an absolute bar to entry. Acknowledgments of the receipt of the circular in various Victorian ports are included.
B13, 1927/5347
Collector of Customs, 'Passengers Under Immigration Act ex 'Citta di Genova' January 1928' [21 pages, 1928–29]
This refers to three passengers, one Italian who was blind, and two Yugoslavs, who came under notice in connection with the Immigration Act and Regulations. They arrived on the Citta di Genova which landed in Fremantle in January 1928. The passports and applications for certificates of exemption for the two Yugoslavs who arrived a month earlier than their visas stipulated, are included. They were first restricted but later allowed to land on the security of the shipping agent for one month.
B13, 1928/1546
Administration of Immigration Act' [5 pages, 1929]
This contains a circular from the Department of Home Affairs in 1929 about new quarantine orders affecting the administration of the Immigration Act.
B13, 1929/2486
Customs and Excise Office, Melbourne, 'Italian Immigration: Re-admission of former residents of Commonwealth and of their families' [8 pages, 1930]
This refers to the conditions of re-entry of Italians, formerly domiciled in Australia, but who had left prior to the introduction of the Re-Entry Permit System, and the entry of their wives and families if they married while abroad.
B13, 1930/3211
Collector of Customs, 'Department of Home Affairs – Alien Immigration 1931' [21 pages, 1930–31]
This contains circular letters, dated 1930, to Customs and Excise, Victoria, from A R Peters, Department of Home Affairs, on the Immigration of Aliens of European race or descent to Australia during 1931.
B13, 1931/3596
Department of Home Affairs, 'Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd – Restriction of Immigration of Aliens into Australia' [6 pages, 1931]
This contains correspondence from the Manager of the Broken Hill Coy, Ltd to the Collector of Customs in March 1931 regarding the nations comprising the non-Quota nationalities and, in the case of desertions, which nations rendered the company liable for penalties under the Act. The reply notified the company that, owing to the level of unemployment, all 'aliens' excepting wives and minor children of those already domiciled in Australia or those with landing permits or special authority from the Department of Home Affairs, were restricted. It also related to desertions and the paying off of 'alien' members of crews.
B13, 1931/3467
Department of Home Affairs, 'Alien Immigration 1931: Circular of 1.4.1931' [7 pages, 1931]
This contains a Department of Home Affairs circular from A R Peters, April 1931, relating to the conditions under which 'white aliens' could land in Australia. 'Aliens' were generally restricted if not in possession of special authority or were otherwise eligible to land. The circular indicated that discretion could be used in regard to both temporary and permanent entry of 'aliens' of 'special standing or position' or 'apparently good standing'.
B13, 1931/5023
Department of the Interior, 'Request for a new Register of Certificates Exempting from the Dictation Test under the Immigration Act' [3 pages, 1933]
This contains a letter from the Collector of Customs, Victoria, in February 1933, to the Secretary, Department of the Interior, raising the question of the need for a new Register of Certificates Exempting from Dictation Test, Melbourne. The reply is included.
B13, 1933/2008
Customs and Excise Office, Victoria, 'Immigration Report, S.S. 'Moreton Bay', Oct.' [3 pages, 1937]
This refers to passengers disembarking at Melbourne who came under notice in connection with the Immigration Act and Regulations. Two required guaranteed maintenance, one had lost the Landing Permit.
B13, 1937/16492
REGISTERS OF CORRESPONDENCE, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1901–42
Perth
This series contains registers of correspondence on the following subjects: Coloured Persons Leaving Australia, 1903–28; Immigrants Rejected or Landed on Certificates, 1902–13; Arrival of Immigrants, 1901–11; Certificates of Exemption, 1920–42; Seamen for the Pearling Industry, 1917–28; Persons Landed in Western Australia, 1919–24; and Prohibited Persons, 1914–21. The registers give a precis of the subject of the correspondence and quote the file number.
Series: PP4/4
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1901–42: Collector of Customs, Western Australia (CA 808)
Collector of Customs, 'Immigration Restriction Act – Register of Immigrants with Lost Certificates' (Exemption from Dictation Test and domicile) [1 cm ledger, 1902–19
The ledger contains details such as Certificate Number, Description of Certificate, Subject (the most detailed section), Period, Name of Vessel and Date of Arrival, Departure, and Remarks.
PP4/4, Book 1
Image 12: How the dictation test was applied in practice.

Image 12: How the dictation test was applied in practice.
NAA: PP4/4, Book 1
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CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1903–38
Canberra
This series was the main correspondence file system of the agencies shown above. The subject matter includes administrative and personal matters as well as the following functions administered by the agencies from time to time: immigration and emigration, 'aliens' registration, naturalisation, passports (except 1916–18), influx of criminals, indentured coloured labour, people of races for whom special laws were thought necessary, external affairs (1903–16), Pacific islands (1903–16) as well as other matters not relevant to this Guide.
Series: A1
Quantity: 184.92 metres
Recorded by: 1903–16: Department of External Affairs, Melbourne (CA 7); 1916–28: Department of Home and Territories (CA 15); 1928–32: Department of Home and Territories (CA 24); 1932–38: Department of the Interior (CA 27)
'Queensland Government Writing re Pacific Island Immigration and Requesting Monetary Assistance in Carrying out Polynesian Acts, 1902–05' [32 pages plus booklets, 1904–05]
This contains a booklet on Imperial and Colonial Acts relating to the Recruiting, etc. of Pacific Island Labourers, Queensland 1892, press cuttings from 1905 on the cost their repatriation, Immigration Agent's Annual Reports for 1902 to 1904 on Pacific Island Immigration, and requests to the Prime Minister for financial assistance in administering the Queensland Polynesian Acts. Some 6 000 islanders had to be deported. Replies and notes are attached.
A1, 1904/9617
Department of External Affairs, File of Papers, 'Amendments of the Immigration Restriction Acts' [33 pages, 1909–10]
This contains copies of various draft amendments and amendments to the Immigration Restriction Act, letters and memoranda. Notes and extracts from Hansard for the period 1908–10 are included.
A1, 1910/6415
Home and Territories Department, 'Immigration. Unsuitable Immigrants' [8 pages, 1922–23]
This concerns a suggestion by the Commonwealth Immigration Office in 1922 that action be taken to invest the Director of Migration or the Chief Medical Officer with authority to refuse admission to unsuitable or undesirable immigrants, with the provision that the decision could be varied if it were later ascertained that the rejected person would not be a menace to the community and that adequate guarantees for maintenance could be attained. Correspondence relates to the appointment of the Director of Migration and the Chief Medical Officer as 'Officers' under the Immigration Act 1901–20, authorised to refuse permission for intending migrants who were medically unfit.
A1, 1923/3669
Home Affairs Department, File of Papers, 'Immigration Act 1930. Amending Section 5' [24 pages, 1930]
This contains a memorandum on the Immigration Act 1901–25, Proposed Amendment of Section 5. The amendment was to overcome a technical defect in the 1924 Act and to provide that the onus of proving that he [sic] had not entered Australia illegally was cast on the immigrant himself [sic]. [It is interesting to note here that all linguistic references assume that the subject is male.] It was to apply to those who had evaded officers or otherwise entered the country illegally since 1901. Correspondence, Hansard extracts and other inclusions deal with the new provision.
A1, 1930/10827
Image 13: Making clear the importance of applying the dictation test in a language not well known to the applicant.

Image 13: Making clear the importance of applying the dictation test in a language not well known to the applicant.
NAA: PP6/1, 1927/H/427
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Image 14: Making clear the importance of applying the dictation test in a language not well known to the applicant.

Image 14: Making clear the importance of applying the dictation test in a language not well known to the applicant.
NAA: PP6/1, 1927/H/427
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CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1904–20
Canberra
This series covers a wide range of subjects dealt with by the Prime Minister. The registry practice is at first haphazard but becomes increasingly formalised. A number of files were converted after 1917 into the first and thereafter into the second Secret and Confidential series of the Prime Minister's Department.
Series: A2
Quantity: 20.32 metres
Recorded by: 1904-11: Prime Minister's Office (CA 588); 1911–20: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Prime Minister's Department, File of Papers, 'Immigration' [29 pages, 1914–16]
The contents relate to a request from John Sanderson & Company to transport 42 Germans and 39 persons of other nationalities to Australia in September 1914. As the Germans were considered enemy subjects, they were unable to land. There is also a request to the Secretary of State for the Colonies from the British Immigration League of Australia concerning the numbers of Germans arriving in Australia as a result of the war. The Prime Minister asked State Premiers for the numbers of Germans and Austrians induced to the States over the previous five years. The same question was asked of the Prime Minister by the Premier of WA in relation to the Commonwealth. The file contains replies and related correspondence on this issue, letters on the possible immigration of British children orphaned by the war and of Syrian refugees and their families, and also a Salvation Army pamphlet and letter on the immigration of widows.
A2, 1916/3742
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Restriction – Demented Female Stowaway on RMS Medina' [6 pages, 1915]
This refers to a female stowaway with an illegitimate child, discovered on board the RMS Medina which arrived in Hobart from Sydney in 1915. She was destitute and described as 'mentally defective' and the question was raised as to the statutory power which existed to prevent her landing. The Immigration Restriction Act 1901, which provided for such cases, referred only to immigrants from overseas not interstate. The use of Section 3 of the Tasmanian Passengers Act 1885 was then considered. This stated that if the Collector of Customs certified that a passenger was likely to become a public charge, he could require the master, etc. of the ship to furnish a bond of £100. W M Hughes, however, ruled in a letter dated 16 November 1915, that the 1885 Act was of doubtful validity and the Collector of Customs could not be called upon to perform such functions.
A2, 1915/267
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Restriction' [8 pages, 1916]
This is a small file containing correspondence which deals with an error by the New Zealand Steamship Company in 1916 in treating an Australian-born woman returning from the Argentine, as an immigrant. As a third class passenger to Australia, she was required to pay a deposit of £20, or supply a guarantee of a known local firm or person, to cover the return fare in the event that she was not allowed to land. This is significant because it relates to the practice adopted by shipping companies as a result of the clauses of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. First and second class passengers were not required to give a deposit or guarantee since it was assumed that they had sufficient funds to pay the cost of the return journey and would not become a charge upon the shipping company if prohibited from landing.
A2, 1917/1542
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1934–50
Canberra
This series consists of general correspondence files which cover the wide range of subjects that came to the Prime Minister's attention. Many earlier papers from the previous general correspondence of the Department have been top-numbered into this series. The series also contains constitutional material dating back to 1901.
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82
Recorded by: 1934–50: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Restrictions. German and Ex-enemy Aliens, 1919–48' [3 cm, 1919–48]
The contents of this file cover the period from 1919 to 1939 with one page only on 1948. The file concerns the restriction of 'enemy aliens' after World War I, rights of entry and return for particular cases, the legislation enacted in 1920, and related correspondence. The Enemy Aliens Act prohibited the entry and residence of Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Turks for five years from 2 December 1920, and thereafter until the Governor-General by proclamation determined otherwise. The removal of the prohibition in 1925,with the exception of Turks, is also covered in various communications and press cuttings. The question of the entry of ex-enemy 'aliens' into the Territories of Papua, New Guinea and Norfolk Island is the subject of much of the correspondence.
A461, K349/3/5
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Visual standard' [83 pages, 1922–29]
Although headed 'Immigration Encouragement', this file concerns restrictions on the visually impaired. It contains a cable from Percy Hunter, Director of the Migration and Settlement Office in London, to the Prime Minister's Department, 1922, regarding the frequency of one-eyed people being nominated as immigrants and asking whether he was on safe ground in accepting them. The attitude of the Home and Territories Department, which administered the Immigration Act, was that if immigrants were otherwise healthy, able to earn their own living and not likely to become a charge on the public, there was no objection. Subsequently, however, the Commonwealth Immigration Office recommended that the views of State Premiers be ascertained, at the same time calling for sympathetic consideration in the case of ex-soldiers. The replies from the states are included. The Queensland, NSW and South Australian Premiers agreed to accept one-eyed nominees but only if they were ex-soldiers. Premier Lawson of Victoria maintained that 'maimed men, generally speaking, should not be eligible for subsidised passages' and that 'loss of an eye is a loss of efficiency, and is a bar against entry into many occupations'. He stated that assistance would not be withheld where it would inflict hardship in the reuniting of families but pointed out that many persons were 'medically advised in Great Britain to come to this country for health reasons. In spite of precautions, such persons fasten themselves onto the Immigration system, to its disadvantage and discredit'. Premier Colebatch of WA felt that it was undesirable to accept any immigrants, nominated or otherwise, who suffered from any form of incapacity. The Tasmanian Premier's view was that each case should be judged on its own merits according to the occupation of the intending immigrant. In 1926, the Ophthalmological Section of the Victorian Branch of the British Medical Association, advised that the object of the regulations was to prevent the admission of those who had grossly defective vision and who might, as a result, become burdens to the Commonwealth Government. Suggestions for the improvement of the present optical examinations were offered and these, together with previous correspondence, were sent to the Sir Neville House, Minister for Health, who had examined the whole system of medical examination in the UK during 1923. Sir James W Barrett in a letter of 1925, queried the rejection of an immigrant solely because he wore glasses and requested a copy of the regulations governing the visual standard observed by the Migration and Settlement Office. The regulations included non-approval [for assisted passages] of anyone wearing glasses for general purposes. Deputy Director Hurley, in reply to Barrett, pointed out that lads placed in remote rural areas sometimes lost or broke their glasses and were unable to work until they were repaired. In some cases, boys with defective vision had also been adversely affected by the strong Australian light and had to be repatriated. He added that, apart from the standard, state governments with agricultural schemes for juvenile migration had stipulated that boys wearing glasses should not be approved. Regulations on the visual standards for assisted migrants were subsequently published in the Argus in 1926 and at a special meeting of the Eye and Ear Section of the British Medical Association, a resolution was adopted for their amendment, though not accepted in full by the Commonwealth. The issue of visual standards for migrants, particularly blindness, was raised again in 1928 and 1929. The whole file is significant for the light it throws on attitudes of the time and the extent of the restrictive legislation and practice.
A461, C349/1/10
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Encouragement. Return of Unsuitable and Unfit Immigrants Part 1' [5 cm,1929–35]
This file concerns the repatriation of migrants, both voluntary and involuntary, during the late 1920s and the early 1930s and is largely made up of individual case studies. The first case in the file deals with a boy farm learner who arrived in Australia in 1925 suffering from poor eyesight. He was hospitalised for treatment in 1928, his doctor stating that he would eventually become blind as a result of hereditary syphilis. He was repatriated at the joint expense of the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. Further cases reveal that ill-health, physical and intellectual disabilities, moral turpitude, criminal offences, and the inability to earn a living for one reason or another, were the most common reasons for repatriation by governments. Cases for forced repatriation fall loosely into categories of the unfit and the unsuitable, the assisted and the unassisted. Issues of responsibility and accountability, of who should pay, and the adverse effects on settlers and on public opinion were raised. The question of the responsibility for the repatriation of unsuitable migrants was discussed at a conference between Commonwealth and State Immigration Authorities in 1924. It was agreed that the Commonwealth would cover the cost of repatriation if the case was reported within one year of arrival and if there was evidence that the disability (if medical) should have been detected by the Commonwealth Medical Referee in the UK. In this context, the discussion focused on when a person ceased to be 'a migrant' (to be repatriated if unsuitable) and becomes the responsibility of the host government in terms of the provision of welfare benefits. Much of the file consists of the personal histories of individual indigent families from group settlement schemes in WA repatriated at their own request during the depression years. Their financial liabilities were written off by the State. Correspondence reveals the gradual development of policies on deportation, repatriation and citizenship. Extracts from a report to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs of the Inter-departmental Committee on Migration Policy in 1934 are included. The issues raised in this file have important implications for the efficacy of immigration policy in this period and the grounds upon which certain immigrants should be repatriated.
A461, C349/1/8 PART 1
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1929
Canberra
This series consists of the main correspondence file series of the Attorney-General's Department. The series commenced in 1929, replacing the existing systems and contains material top-numbered from those series, including papers back to 1901.
Series: A432
Quantity: 2329.2 metres
Recorded by: 1929–58: Attorney General's Department (CA 5)
Attorney-General's Department, 'Immigration. American Legislation, 1921–24' [44 pages plus booklet, 1921–24]
This file relates to the revision of the United States Immigration laws, 1921–4, which had a number of implications for Australian immigration policy in the same period. In particular, correspondence refers to the admission of bona fide students to the United States in excess of the numbers admissible under the United States Immigration Act of May 1921. This Act limited the admission of 'aliens' into the United States. The United States government in July 1922 resolved to permit certain 'aliens', admitted temporarily under bond in excess of quotas, to remain within the United States. The file also contains notification to the Australian government that an Immigration Bill (the Johnson Bill) had passed Congress in 1924 limiting the quota to 100 plus 2% of the number of foreign born individuals of each nationality resident in the United States according to the 1890 census. Under that measure the Australian quota was 219. A copy of the Act itself and other letters on its passing and possible effects are included.
A432, 1929/4141 part 1
Attorney-General's Department, 'Egon Erwin Kirsch and Gerald Griffin, Delegates to the Anti-War Conference – Action under Immigration Act 1901–33 on Charges of being a Prohibited Person, October and November 1934', Part 1 [26 pages, 1934]
This file and the one below relate to a rare but notable incidence in this period of the use of the Immigration Restriction legislation to exclude people from Australia for political reasons. One folder contains a letter from W H Nugent, in June 1934 requesting the use of rooms in the St Kilda City Hall for the purpose of holding the Second National Congress Against War from 10–14 November. Councillors subsequently became alarmed upon reading resolutions passed at a conference of the Victorian Council Against War, published in the Argus, and a full list of names and addresses of members was obtained. The Town Clerk in September requested the Chief of Commonwealth Police to ascertain 'whether the organisation under notice is bone fide and single-minded in its campaign against war as such; or whether it is covertly using an appeal to the humanitarianism to propagate Communistic or revolutionary ideals'. He was sent a history of the movement and it was expected that his Council would withdraw the permission to occupy the rooms. A second folder relates to reports of Egon Kisch, a Czechoslovak nationalist and delegate from World Committee against War and Fascism, who was proceeding to Australia for the conference 'with literature'. This and other information (included) was relayed to the government with the result that the Director of the Attorney-General's Department, Investigation Branch, H E Jones, instructed that, if Communist literature was found in his possession, thus providing definite proof of his activities and his undesirability, he should not be allowed into Australia. Following further investigations about Kisch and the fact that he had already been declared a prohibited immigrant to the UK, he was declared an undesirable immigrant and prohibited from landing.
A432, 1934/1736 PART 1
Attorney-General's Department, 'Egon Erwin Kirsch and Gerald Griffin, Delegates to the Anti-War Conference – Action under Immigration Act 1901–33 on Charges of being a Prohibited Person, October and November 1934', Part 2 [50 pages, 1934]
This file continues on from that above and contains notes from a deputation from the Trades Hall Council which waited upon the Federal Attorney General, R G Menzies, on 9 November 1934 to protest against the action of the Commonwealth Government in prohibiting Egon Kisch and Gerald Griffin from landing in Australia owing to their anti-war sentiments, which amounted to 'a deliberate and unworthy appeal to fear and prejudice for political purposes and also represents a gross abuse of its powers under the Immigration Act'. The deputation called for the ban to be lifted. Menzies quoted the part of the Act under which the two were excluded: viz, 'anyone who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or of any State or any other civilised country or of all forms of law, or who advocates or teaches the unlawful destruction of property, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organisation which entertains and teaches any of the doctrines and practices specified in this paragraph'… or… 'any person declared by the Minister to be… undesirable as an inhabitant or as a visitor… '. He supplied information on Griffin, said to be a 'very vigorous Unionist propagandist' who had spent a considerable time in Russia. Griffin was subjected to the Dictation Test and failed. Further notes on the two cases are included.
A432, 1934/1736 part 2
Attorney-General's Department, 'Immigration Act 1912–35, procedure re undesirable immigrants. Reports by Ministers 1938' [1 page, 1938]
This concerns procedures to be adopted for the restriction into Australia of new classes of immigrants. The classes included a) people holding extreme political views, such as Communists, Nazis, Fascists, etc; b) people known or believed to hold strong anti-British views; c) cases where action taken by the Department of the Interior may have been of major political consequence or may have affected relations with other countries; and d) cases in which the Defence department was likely to be especially interested.
A432, 1938/1209
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'V' (VICTORIA) PREFIX, 1924–62
Melbourne
The series comprises files relating to the investigation of all criminal offenses committed against the Commonwealth, the contravention of Commonwealth Acts or of State Acts committed on Commonwealth property; the pursuit of recalcitrant debtors to the Commonwealth; and inquiry into the whereabouts of persons requested to be traced by government departments, organisations such as the Red Cross, International Tracing Service, Australia House, private persons or by diplomatic or consular representation. Investigations carried out at the request of government departments include areas such as impersonation, ships' deserters, enemy 'aliens' in wartime, prohibited immigrants and naturalisation, among others. In most cases a separate file was raised for each particular case requested to be investigated.
Series: B741
Quantity: 29.88 metres
Recorded by: 1927–46: Investigation Branch, Victoria (CA907); 1946–60: Commonwealth Investigation Service (CA 916); 1960-62: Commonwealth Police Force (CA 955)
Attorney-General's Department, 'Immigration Act, 1921–24' [9 pages (plus Statutory Rules), 1923–24]
This contains a circular on the Appointment of Officers under the Immigration Act 1901–20, copies of the provisions of the Immigration Act 1901–24, Statutory Rules, 1913, No. 307 and Statutory Rules 1923, No. 56.
B741, V/374
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1923–34
Canberra
This series precedes series A461 (described earlier in this chapter) and contains general correspondence files covering the range of subjects that came to the Prime Minister's attention in this period.
Series: A458
Quantity: 49.77 metres
Recorded by: 1923–34: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Prime Minister's Department, 'Immigration Restrictions. Particular Classes and Nations. Miscellaneous' [16 pages, 1923–35]
The file includes a press report and letter relating to the possible arrival of refugees in 1923, Hansard extracts, and various cables relating to immigration restrictions.
A458, L156/2
Prime Minister's Department, Correspondence Files, Multi-number series, 'Immigration Restrictions. Australian Policy – Correspondence with States' [1.5 cm, 1924–27]
This contains a Report of Debates from a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, 1927, to consider 1. Financial Relations between the States and the Commonwealth and 2. Child Endowment; and Hansard extracts relating to European migration, 1927. Correspondence from State Premiers of NSW, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria principally deals with the increased level of European migration to Australia in 1924–5 (statistics for the period 1 July 1924 to 31 December 1925 are included) and the measures taken to regulate it. Sir George Fuller, Premier of NSW, referred to the increase in Southern European migration as a 'threatened invasion' (27 November 1924). A number of destitute Albanians and Yugoslavs stranded in Western Australia and New South Wales raised concerns and a police report followed. State Premiers suggested various means of control: establishing a quota system, more stringent medical examinations, the extension of the use of the dictation test to include Europeans, and repatriation. Measures adopted in 1924 included special arrangements with the Maltese and Italian governments and numerical limits of 100 per month placed on Albanian, Greek and Yugoslavs. The question of the establishment of foreign schools in Australia and the medium of instruction was also raised and a short report from B McKenna, Secretary, Department of Public Instruction is included on Children of Foreign Extraction in North Queensland. In 1925, more formal restrictions were imposed. Section 3, paragraph f) of the Immigration Act was amended to include amongst the classes of prohibited immigrants anyone who was likely to become a charge upon the public by reason of infirmity of mind or body, insufficiency of means to support himself or any other cause. Foreign migrants were required, in addition to the usual requirements regarding health, character and passports, to possess £40 landing money after 1 April 1925, unless maintenance was guaranteed by an Australian resident or special authorisation was obtained from the government. Shipping companies were otherwise liable to provide return passages.
A458, B156/1 part 1
GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'H' INFIX, 1926–50
Perth
This series contains general records of functions in connection with migration, covering reports by the Boarding Branch, Customs Department, in respect of all vessels, showing persons coming under notice through the provisions of the Immigration Act; details of the activities of the Social Welfare Branch; applications for naturalisation; applications for Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test; applications for admission to Australia as a migrant; nominal rolls of migrants supplied by overseas posts on the departure of vessels; reports on unsuitable migrants and action taken in respect of deportees; general correspondence; reports on immigration centres, Northam and Cunderdin; and applications for permanent residence by persons who have entered the country illegally. From May 1926 to May 1946 all immigration work was carried out by the Customs Department and records were maintained by them. With the establishment of the Immigration Department in Perth in May 1946, all files were transferred from Customs to Immigration. Files prior to 1926 are believed to have been destroyed.
Series: PP6/1
Quantity: 20.16 metres
Recorded by: 1926–45: Collector of Customs, WA, (from 1985) Australian Customs Service, WA (CA 808); 1945–50: Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch (CA 962)
Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch, General Correspondence File, 'Merchant Shipping Act – Effect on deportation of prohibited immigrants under Immigration Act' [5 pages, 1926]
This file deals with suggestions for ensuring that deportees under the Immigration Act, by reason of their health or mental condition, do not endanger others on board ships.
PP6/1, 1926/H/130
Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch, General Correspondence File, 'Deportation of assisted migrants under the provisions of the Immigration Act' [3 pages, 1927]
This file contains a letter from Assistant Secretary, Home and Territories Department, February 1927, requesting that for any deportations of assisted migrants reference should be made to the Department, and that it be definitely ascertained in each case whether the person concerned arrived as an assisted migrant or not.
PP6/1, 1927/H/364
Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch, General Correspondence File, 'Immigration Act 1901–25. Dictation Test' [5 pages, 1927]
This contains a circular of March 1927 on the Immigration Act 1901–25, Dictation Test, to the Collector of Customs from the Home and Territories Department giving directions for applying the Test. It makes clear that, when applied to an immigrant, it was intended to serve as an absolute bar to that person's entry into Australia, or as a means of depriving him of the right to remain in Australia if he had already landed. The Test therefore had to be applied in a language with which the immigrant was not sufficiently acquainted to be able to write out at dictation. Tests were furnished by the Department.
PP6/1, 1927/H/427
Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch, General Correspondence File, 'Fee collected under Immigration Act' [1 cm, 1930–34]
This file contains weekly returns from Clerk, Passports to the Boarding Inspector, for passports issued, passports awaiting issue, fresh applications received, re-entry permits issued, permits to travel, visas, renewals and endorsements for the period 1931 to 1933 and related correspondence on the remittance of fees.
PP6/1, 1930/H/3007
Department of Immigration, Western Australian Branch General Correspondence File, 'Deportation orders under Section 8 ofImmigration Act – maintenance of deportees' [13 pages, 1931]
This file concerns several copies of circulars from the Department of Home Affairs to the Collector of Customs concerning the question of Shipping Companies in the various states providing passages and maintenance expenses pending deportation for deportees under Section 13A of the Immigration Act. It also covers the extent of the liability of Shipping Companies if the deportee became unfit to travel.
PP6/1, 1931/H/332
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES (POLICY MATTERS), 1922–68
Canberra
This series consists of Immigration policy files relating to the assimilation, welfare and education of migrants. The file subjects include Acts relating to immigration, migrant organisations, transport, sponsorship schemes, housing and accommodation, conferences, child-youth migration, refugees and restricted immigration policy.
Series: A445
Quantity: 22.50 metres
Recorded by: 1951–55: Department of Immigration, Central Office (CA 51)
Department of Immigration, 'Immigration Regulations – Amendments to' [2.5 pages, 1932–51]
This includes Regulations under the Immigration Act 1925, a Memorandum on White Alien Crews 1932, Consolidation of Regulations under the Immigration Act 1901–32, Statutory Rules, 1932 and 1933, and correspondence covering a number of areas: proposed amendments to passport regulations, naturalisation regulations and immigration regulations, increases in fees for passports, landing money and re-entry permits for 'aliens' for the period 1932–40, and passenger cards after the war.
A445, 103/6/9
IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION ACT PRECEDENT BOOK, 1902–11
Canberra
This file has an alphabetical index.
Series: A20
Quantity: 6.5cm
Recorded by: 1902–11: Department of External Affairs, Melbourne (CA 7)
REGISTER OF PROSECUTIONS UNDER THE IMMIGRATION ACT, 1902–30
Canberra
1 Volume
Series: A19
Quantity: 2.5cm
Recorded by: 1902–16: Department of External Affairs, Melbourne (CA 7); 1916–28: Department of Home and Territories, Central Office (CA 15); 1928–30: Department of Home Affairs, (Central Office) (CA 24)
OUTWARD LETTER BOOK CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION, 1909
Canberra
Series: A61
Quantity: 2cm
Recorded by: 1909: Department of External Affairs, Melbourne (CA 7)
REGISTER OF EXEMPTIONS UNDER IMMIGRATION RESTRICTION ACT, 1925–31
Canberra
Series: A260
Quantity: 9cm
Recorded by: 1925–28: Department of Home and Territories, Central Office (CA 15); 1928–31: Department of Home Affairs, Central Office (CA 24)
REGISTER UNDER THE CONTRACT IMMIGRATION ACT, 1902–40
Canberra
Series: A22
Quantity: 4cm
Recorded by: 1902–16: Department of External Affairs Melbourne (CA 7); 1916–28: Department of Home and Territories, Central Office (CA 15); 1928–32: Department of Home Affairs, Central Office (CA 24); 1932–39: Department of the Interior, Central Administration (CA 27); 1939–40: Department of the Interior, Central Office (CA 31)

Individual Cases

A number of individual cases occur in the files described in this chapter. They involve unaccepted nominations, deportations, repatriations, intellectual and physical disabilities (such as visual and hearing impairments), destitution and unsuitability for admission on other grounds.

As mentioned in the Introduction, individual cases files themselves are not dealt with in this guide. For details of where to find records dealing with individual cases see Finding Families: The Guide to the National Archives of Australia for Genealogists.


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