Australia's Dictation Test

The Test It Was a Crime to Fail


The last person to ‘pass’ White Australia’s Dictation Test did so in 1907 by submitting a watercolour entitled ‘Advance Australia Fair. For the next 50 years of its existence the thereafter more carefully trained officials ensured no one ever passed again. Here is detailed how the White Australia Policy came to have a fake test of dictation at the heart of its administration. Beginning as an inspired piece of hypocrisy designed to preserve the semblance of imperial equality, in the hands of the early Commonwealth of Australia this ‘education test’ quickly evolved into a test it was impossible to pass.

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Michael Williams, Ph.D. (2001), Hong Kong University, is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University. He has published extensively on Chinese Australian history with emphasis on continuing links with the home villages, including Returning Home with Glory (HKU Press, 2018).
List of Figures

1 As Absurd as It Is Unique
An Introduction
2 Avoid Stigmatising Them by Name as Being Unfit for Civilised Life
The Historical and Ideological Background up to 1901
3 To Place Its Sufficiency beyond Doubt
Crafting the Dictation Test 1901 – 1909
4 On Account of the Elasticity Which It Permits
Evolution of the administration of the Dictation Test
5 A Man Would Need to Live for Three Generations
Chinese exceptionalism
6 Is the Applicant of European (White) Race or Descent?
Defining the Desirable
7 The Humanity of Australia Itself Will in Time Revolt
Passing of the Test and Fading of the Project
8 Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose
Has Australia Passed the Test?

Historians of Australia and immigration history, specialists in multiculturalism, Chinese community members.
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