Melbourne Immigration Museum

This is still during my second day in Melbourne and I decided to go to the Museum of Immigration to cool off and stay out of the heat. By now, this is day 22 of my trip to the southern hemisphere. I had learned bits and pieces of Australian and New Zealand history. I remember in an abstract fashion that Australia and New Zealand are immigrant nations like the good ol’ US of America, but “forgot”. To see it and be reminded on the streets and in museums was a duh! moment.

Perhaps this is the most interesting exhibit. The structure simulates various vessels that brought the first settlers from Britain and Scotland. In the 1700s when Australia was formed as a penal colony, the ships were sailing vessels. Over the course of the decades, the ships got faster and bigger. In the mid 1800s, gold was found in the hinterlands of Melbourne and suddenly everyone wanted to go to Australia.

This sounds a bit like the history of America; the state of Georgia was a former debtor’s colony established by “humanitarians” hoping to alleviate the debtor’s prisons in Britain. Gold was found in California in 1849.

Then some things took a darker turn. Australia enacted immigration policies that were much more restrictive than the United States in the 1880s. Australia had enacted a “White Australia” policy. It was not just Europeans, but “white” Europeans. That usually meant northern Europeans and of course the United Kingdom. The policy was later rescinded and overturned. By comparison, the US had welcomed people from all over Europe and Asia. Yes, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which limited Chinese labor immigration in the United States and not formally repealed until 1943. In 2012, Congress finally passed resolution expressing regret over this matter. That was America.

Australia dealt with its immigration policies similarly and certainly with their own flavor. Like Americans, some Australians are also questioning culture, race, and identity in the 21st century. But unlike America in recent history, in Australia, there were no famous race riots. There were no militant groups with polarizing rhetoric. No one publicly swore to kill police officers in revenge for every time a black person is killed in a police shooting. Australians used music, art, and poetry to express themselves which I personally find admirable. They faced the same types of challenges with a different grace.

Enough “politics”. My cousin picked me up around 4 PM when he was done at his office. He had not eaten much so we got McDo chicken nuggets for a snack before dinner.

I end with this beautiful view of southern Melbourne.


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