The Chinese in Australian feature films made in the years of the White Australia policy, 1901-1975

Juanita Kwok

Research output: ThesisHonours Thesis

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The introduction of film and the creation of Australian nationhood share a coincidence in timing. The newly federated nation defined itself as an exclusively white nation through its first act of parliamentary legislation, the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901. This dissertation seeks to examine how the notion of a White Australia based on anti-Chinese immigration was expressed in cinematic representations of the Chinese in Australian cinema. It analyses thirteen Australian feature films made in the period of the White Australia Policy from 1901-1975. Early characterisations of the Chinese reflect the racial anxiety which shaped the policy. Close readings of A Girl of the Bush (Barrett, 1921) and Lovers and Luggers (K. Hall, 1937) demonstrate the relationship between the policy as it controlled the lives of the Chinese and as they were represented on screen. The change in the Chinese characters in films of the 1970s is attributed to the counter-culture movement and the end of the White Australia Policy. An analysis of The Man from Hong Kong (Trenchard-Smith, 1975) demonstrates how this film subverts the order of domination and subordination established in antecedent films. It is concluded that the portrayal of Chinese characters in Australian feature films offers an informative perspective on the history of the White Australia policy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Pickersgill, Richard, Principal Supervisor
  • Mairata, James, Co-Supervisor
  • Mills, Jane, Principal Supervisor
Award date12 Dec 2012
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2012

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