History Subject Migrants Refugees and Australian Society TOPIC Reflect on the extent to which Australian immigration policy has been ‘socially engineered’

Added to that, if Australia’s immigration policy was socially engineered as this research will try to establish, the country was hardly unique in this regard. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to claim that most immigration policies, both past and present, are socially engineered. With that in mind, this research will engage in a historical overview of Australia’s immigration policy, for the purposes of establishing that it was socially engineered.
Australia’s earliest immigration policies were inspired by the need for labour and, to this extent, were seemingly economically engineered. As Aboriginals were not a significant source of labor for colonial Australia, labor had to be brought in from overseas, initially from Britain.1 The original means of Australian settlement and development was “transportation,” the shipment of convicts to Australia that began in 1788. The use of transportation served a two-fold purpose: a labor force, as available for the settlement of the new colony, and it provided an outlet for Britains convict population. The United States Declaration of Independence effectively eliminated the American colonies as a destination for convicts, as had been the earlier practice.2 The cessation of transportation of convict labor to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century provoked a shortage of workers in the pastoral industry and raised the idea of replacing convicts with indentured workers or “coolies.”3 It need be noted here that even though the described policy was largely informed by economic imperatives, it was, arguably, socially engineered on both the British and the Australuan sides. On the British side it was socially engineered in the sense that Britain dictated that policy in an effort to cleanse its own society from criminal elements. On the Australian side, it was partially socially engineered to the extent that the earlier waves of settlements were white Anglo-Saxons and other