Airdate: Immigration Nation: The Secret History of Us

One of SBS’ feature documentaries for 2011 will be Immigration Nation: The Secret History of Us, the untold story behind Australia’s multicultural mix.

It will explore Australia’s untold immigration story; a century long struggle to overcome the White Australia Policy that resulted in one of the world’s most multicultural nations.

It is to be complemented by an interactive online documentary and themed in-language discussion on SBS radio. A Mandarin subtitled version of the documentary series will also be available on SBS’s recently launched Chinese language Virtual Community Centre.

Matt Campbell, Director, Television and Online Content says: “Immigration Nation builds on SBS’s reputation for landmark documentary series that make a significant contribution to understanding the cultural complexity of the Australian community.

“By utilising all of our platforms and our in-language expertise, SBS ensures all Australians can participate in this innovative broadcast initiative.”

Based on interviews with eminent historians and testimony from eyewitnesses to the key events that built a nation – some of whom tell their stories for the first time – Immigration Nation will reveal the dark paradox behind the Utopian vision at Federation: the belief that to make the new Commonwealth the most progressive and egalitarian nation in the world, the country must be exclusively white. It will track the implementation of the White Australia Policy and the impact on the immigrant communities that it fractured.

At the heart of the cross platform activity is SBS’s most ambitious online offer to date.

Produced in association with The Chocolate Liberation Front, the dedicated site will feature an interactive documentary looking at how immigrants have shaped Australia today. A resource centre will provide further factual information around the television series, including visually engaging statistics on immigration, profiles of key politicians, further information on key contributors that are featured in the series, and more. The site will also enable audiences to look into the SBS Television archives to find out how Australia’s views on immigration have changed in the past 30 years.

Prior to and throughout the broadcast of the television series, SBS Radio will invite listeners to take part in discussion in-language as a range of programs explore the themes raised in the series. SBS Radio currently broadcasts programs in 68 languages around Australia and has played a vital part in assisting the adjustment of new migrants to Australian life.

SBS will also partner the Museum of Australian Democracy in a discussion event at Old Parliament House in Canberra in early 2011.

Immigration Nation: The Secret History of Us is a Renegade Factual production in association with SBS.

It begins on Sunday, 9 January 2011 at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.


  1. Very interesting. It was great to hear that Australia was not conquered through democracy or the democratic process but through deception and trickery of our leaders against the overwhelming will of the Australian people. My faith in Australians has been restored. Bring back democracy and the will of the people before we become just another dumping ground for the third world.

  2. Andrew Browne

    1. How exactly do you justify showing movie footage of the forced return of internees after World War 2 by Australian service men as supporting the White Austrlia policy?

    2. The show infers that Japan’s hostility to Australia was one of the drivers for Japanese imperialism in WW2. This seems totally unjustified by the history of Japan pre WW2.

  3. Part II this evening – again – an excellent reminder of our history and the how and why we have come to be this 21st century nation of such rich ethnic diversity and so – among all nations nowadays – of a unique and close connectedness to the whole world really. This was my first time to learn of the O’Keefe family and their part in cracking the white australia policy but there is another significant contribution to the ending of this social travesty which was unmentioned – the post-war Australian BCOF service personnel in Japan who married – over 600 of them – and brought their Japanese wives back to Australia – the tale of Gordon and Cherry Parker important in this part of our national story – Solrun Hoass detailing this in her brilliant documentary “Cherry Ripe and Green Tea”. I am old enough to remember the outrage of Nancy Prasad – I look forward to next week’s program.

  4. Back from the early 1980s onwards this was the kind of material I was presenting my students in both history classes and via contemporary Australian literature – reflecting on our Indigenous and culturally diverse society – and pointing out my own connections – allowing them to find their way to such insights. I grew up in rural NSW – neighbours Dutch, German, Italian, Scottish, Chinese, English, Indigenous – attended Sydney University with fellows whose ethnic roots were Chinese, Russian from China, Jewish…A Scottish grand-mother/Kent-born English grand-father, Paris-born sister-in-law, Bangka Island 5th generation Chinese-Indonesian aunt, a cousin with a Japanese wife, Cousins in the US with Thai spouses – this is our world to-day – here. But what of our past? My students were happy to read Ronald McKie’s The Mango Tree and Colin Thiele’s Sun on the Stubble. Rex Ingamells wrote of Cheng Ho (and Yamada Nagamasa) – there were Japanese pearl divers in Broome (from the 1880s – not the 1850s as stated on the program – one minor slip I noted) and Japanese sugar-cane farming too, in Queensland. And the Dictation Test was used to keep out others of “colour” – though unsuccessfully so in the case of Egon Kisch (his political colour too pink) though an English woman in the 1930s – whose moral colour was deemed the wrong shade – was kept outside the national borders – in New Zealand I think she stayed. There is lots of shame in this series we need to confront – to know our national story fully – and to ensure that rabid “Stop the Boats” politicians are properly kept in check – though one is apt to think that the boat that brought that particular politician should have been kept out – (…Only joking)!

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