This term was used in immigration legislation until 1983, when it was replaced by ‘non-citizen’. It refers to a person born in another country, or holding citizenship of another country, who has not acquired Australian citizenship by naturalisation and is not entitled to the privileges of a citizen.


Until the 1960s, Australian Government policy aimed to ensure that immigrants were absorbed into Australian society, with a view to achieving harmonious re-settlement. Immigrants were expected to ‘blend in’ with the dominant cultural group, discarding their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions in order to become completely ‘Australian’.

Assisted immigration / assisted passage schemes

From the 1830s, some immigrants to Victoria and Australia were offered assistance such as fares to Australia, land, living allowances or training. For over a century, assistance was provided only to British immigrants. After World War II, assistance was broadened to other European countries and continued until the 1980s, when assistance to all categories except refugees ceased.


A person who, after fleeing his or her country, seeks protection in another country. It is a basic human right to seek asylum, accepted by all signatories to the 1951 UN Convention and 1967 UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, including Australia. Australia provides protection for asylum-seekers under its Humanitarian Program.

Australian Bureau of Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is a federal government organisation that conducts a five-yearly national Census of Population and Housing, undertakes other demographic and economic surveys, analyses data and provides statistical modelling and analysis services.

Bring out a Briton

A campaign in the 1950s that encouraged community groups and employers in Australia to sponsor British immigrant families.


The official counting of the size and characteristics of a population for social analysis and government planning. A census was first conducted in Victoria in 1854 and the first national census was taken in 1911. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not officially included in the national census until 1971. Each census varies slightly in the characteristics it measures. The early censuses collected only rudimentary information and were collected haphazardly.

Chain migration

Migration assisted by family or friends who have immigrated earlier, through sponsorship, encouragement or financial assistance (such as fares or accommodation). Sometimes entire groups of people from villages, towns and cities have been transplanted through this process.

Child migration scheme

Schemes to bring children to Australia, largely from Britain, were first established in the 19th century. During the 20th century, more than 30 voluntary and religious organisations brought children to Australia and accommodated them in homes. Between 1947 and 1953 over 3100 children migrated to Australia from the United Kingdom under approved schemes.


In 1948, the Nationality and Citizenship Act created the status of ‘Australian citizen’. Previously, Australians had been ‘British subjects’. Citizenship entitles individuals to vote, to stand for parliament, and to apply for an Australian passport. Citizenship also requires an oath or affirmation of allegiance to Australia, obedience to Australian laws, compulsory voting at federal and state elections, jury service and defence of Australia.

Colombo Plan

Established in 1950, the Colombo Plan encouraged economic and social cooperation between member countries in the Asia-Pacific region. It included a scheme under which students from developing countries could study in Australia. Some 40,000 students from the Asia-Pacific region studied in Australia over a period of 35 years. They were required to leave Australia at the end of their study, although some were permitted to remain under special circumstances such as marriage, employer sponsorship or hardship in their home country. In 2014 the Abbott Government launched the New Colombo Plan, an initiative aimed at increasing exchange in the Indo-Pacific region for Australian university students.

Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act, 1975

This Act aims to ensure that everyone is treated equally, regardless of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. The Act commits Australia to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Dictation Test

A written entry test that gave Australian immigration officials the power to exclude any non-European immigrants. Immigrants could be required to pass a language test in any European language. If they failed, they were refused entry. The cornerstone of the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act, it was used until 1958.


Abbreviation for the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. This Federal Government department was formed in 2001. The Department of Immigration was originally created in 1945 and over the years has had several name and role changes. In December 2017, the Turnbull Government formed the Department of Home Affairs for which the responsibilities of immigration, citizenship, multicultural affairs and border security now resides.

Displaced Persons

People made homeless and stateless as a result of war, civil war, or the changing of borders by international treaty. After World War II, large numbers of Europeans, in particular from the Eastern Block countries, became stateless. Between 1947 and 1954, more than 170,000 Displaced Persons arrived in Australia, as part of an international resettlement program.

Empire Settlement Act

Passed by the Australian Parliament in 1922, this Act established immigration schemes between the British and Australian Governments to assist ‘suitable persons’ to immigrate to Australia. People were helped with fares, living allowances, training, employment and grants of farmland. The schemes did not attract the anticipated numbers and, of those who did come, many returned home disappointed.

Family Reunion Scheme

An Australian Government scheme that has enabled family members overseas to be reunited with Australian citizens and permanent residents. The relative in Australia must undertake to act as guarantor for the applicant during the first 12 months after arrival, providing accommodation and financial support.

Immigration Restriction Act

Passed by the first Australian Parliament in 1901, shortly after Federation, this Act was the cornerstone of the White Australia Policy. It created a series of barriers and disincentives to entry by non-European immigrants.


From the late 1950s to the late 1970s the Australian Government replaced its ‘assimilation’ policy with one that promoted integration of immigrants into Australian society. The approach acknowledged that immigrants could become ‘Australian’ while retaining aspects of their cultural identity and heritage.

International Immigration Agreement

Since 1948, Australia has signed agreements with more than 20 countries, establishing immigration assistance and reunion schemes.

International Refugee Organisation

In the aftermath of World War II, the International Refugee Organization (IRO) was established by the international community to resettle refugees and displaced persons. The IRO recognized that people held 'valid objections' to returning home, including persecution, or fear of persecution, because of race, religion, nationality or political opinions. In 1951 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) replaced the IRO.


The forced imprisonment in prescribed ‘camps’ of people from ‘enemy’ countries during wartime. Their property could also be seized. During World War I internment in Australia was regulated by the 1914 War Precautions Act. The main internment camp was at Liverpool, New South Wales. Some 6890 people were interned in Australia during the War. They were mainly of German or Austro-Hungarian background. Many were deported after the War ended. During World War II the 1939 National Security Act provided for the internment of enemy aliens. People of Japanese, German and Italian origin were interned for the remainder of the War in camps in several states including NSW, South Australia and Western Australia. 7,000 Australian residents were interned, including more than 1,500 British nationals. A further 8,000 people were sent to Australia to be interned after being detained overseas by Australia's allies.

Landing Tax

Taxes imposed by state and federal governments on immigrants, in order to restrict or discourage large numbers of immigrants from countries regarded as unsuitable. The first landing tax was applied to Chinese people arriving during the Victorian gold rush in the 1850s, and later to immigrants from various European countries during the 1920s and 1930s.


Migrant is a broad term that describes a person who moves from one place to another. An emigrant is a term used to describe a person who leaves one country to settle in another. A person who moves to a foreign country with the intention of living there permanently is called an immigrant. Temporary migration is migration to a country that is not intended to be permanent, often for a specific reason such as employment or study.

Migrant hostels/Migrant Reception Centres

Temporary accommodation that housed assisted passage immigrants arriving in Australia. Since the 19th century, various types of government and privately funded temporary housing have been provided for immigrants. This practice became widespread after World War II to process and control the dispersal of the large numbers of people arriving in Australia. British immigrants tended to be housed in central locations, while many others who were not British were sent to camps in isolated rural areas. Many suburban hostels continued to offer support and accommodation for immigrants until the 1980s.

Migration Act, 1958

The first major federal legislation relating to immigration policy since 1901. The 1958 Migration Act abolished the Dictation Test as the method of screening immigrants to Australia. The Act also introduced an entry permit system as the means of controlling immigration. The Act was amended in 1983, replacing the term ‘alien’ with ‘non-citizen’ and ending the favoured treatment of British nationals.


Since the 1970s, the Australian Government has promoted multiculturalism in place of ‘integration’. Multiculturalism encourages all Australians to maintain their customs and traditions while respecting those of others. At the same time, all Australians are expected to respect and comply with the basic structures and principles of Australian society. Practical measures for achieving a multicultural society have included public funding for the delivery of culturally-specific welfare and educational services. Australians embraced expressions of diversity, including food and festivals, SBS television and the performing arts. Yet debate by politicians and communities about the ability of diverse religious and cultural groups and practices to co-exist in Australia has continued since then. Today there continues discussion about the meaning of multiculturalism, its success as a way to achieve social cohesion and what it will mean for the future.

Numerical Multi-factor Assessment System (NUMAS)

A points system for the selection of immigrants, introduced in Australia in 1979. It was designed to ensure consistency in the selection of immigrants coming from different countries. Still used today, the points system rates age, language, qualifications, skills and family status.

Proxy marriage

A marriage ceremony in which the groom was represented by a substitute or ‘proxy’. It took place in the country of origin, before the bride migrated to join her husband in Australia. As the cost of returning to the country of origin to marry was prohibitive in the post-World War II period, this practice became common, especially amongst southern European immigrant groups.


A person who has fled his or her country of origin in fear of being persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. Annual quotas for refugee immigration and resettlement are set by the Australian Government’s Humanitarian Program.

Sex and Gender

Sex refers to a person's biological characteristics. A person's sex is usually described as being male or female. Some people may have both male and female characteristics, or neither male nor female characteristics, or other sexual characteristics. Sex is assigned at birth and is relatively fixed. However, a person's sex may change during their lifetime as a result of procedures commonly referred to as sex change, gender reassignment, gender affirmation, transsexual surgery, transgender reassignment or sexual reassignment. Throughout this process, which may be over a considerable period of time, sex may be recorded as either male, female or other. Gender refers to the way in which a person identifies their masculine or feminine characteristics. A person's gender relates to their deeply held internal and individual sense of gender and is not always exclusively male or female. It may or may not correspond to their sex at birth. As gender is determined by the individual, it can therefore be fluid over time.

Special Humanitarian Program (SHP)

A current immigration category for people outside their home country who are subject to discrimination amounting to gross violation of human rights in their home country. A sponsor – an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen, or an organisation that is based in Australia – must support applications for entry under the SHP.

Universal Migration Policy

In 1973 the Australian Government introduced a non-discriminatory immigration policy, by which any person, anywhere in the world, could apply to immigrate to Australia, regardless of sex, colour, ethnicity, religion or race.

White Australia Policy

A phrase used to describe the restrictive immigration policies of the colonial and Australian Governments from the 1850s until the 1970s that aimed to maintain a predominantly white population in Australia. The phrase first appeared in the 1880s and the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act soon became popularly known as the ‘White Australia Policy’. The policy remained in force into the 1960s, when it was gradually dismantled. It was finally disbanded with the passing of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act in 1975.