“The Ungrateful Immigrant”: A Look at Australia’s Immigration History through the Eyes of Poetry.

Author Name

Sarbani Mohapatra

Author Address

Postgraduate student of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. E-mail address: [email protected]


nationhood, immigration poetry, assimilation, multiple multiculturalisms, settler economy, linguistic marginalization


“Australian immigration policy over the past hundred and fifty years has rested on three pillars; the maintenance of British hegemony and ‘white’ domination; the strengthening of Australia economically and militarily by selective mass migration; and the state control of these processes.”   (From White Australia to Woomera: The Story of Australian Immigration, James Jupp.)

Immigration has been an integral facet of Australian nationhood having numerous political, economic and social ramifications for its inhabitants. Since literature cannot remain untouched by the problems of its age, a veritable body of immigrant poetry occupies a notable position within the larger framework of Australian literary work. The paper attempts to delineate the various stages in the history of country’s immigration policy: Anglo-Saxon policy, white Australian policy, linguistic marginalization, assimilation and state-sponsored multiculturalism vis-à-vis the impact it has on the relationship of immigrants with Australia, be it one of resignation, resentment or outright contempt, as posited in a number of Australian immigrant poetry. The array of poems discussed in the paper includes the works of Ouyang Yu, Peter Skrzynecki, Maria Lewitt, among others. The inextricable link of immigration with economic consolidation of a settler nation as expressed in the poems has been explored. The idea that multiculturalism is not a unified concept and there can be multiple multiculturalisms has also been dealt with in the context of the notion of Australia as the ‘most multicultural society in the world’ being fraught with nuanced contradictions.


International Conference on Migration, Diaspora and Development
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