Celia Capace - Header - name

Celia Capace - Poofter Bastard

In Australia, past immigration legislation has been very specific and at times racist.  We started as a penal colony but the discovery of gold changed that and the four corners of the world soon flocked to Australia.  My family arrived in the 1960s during the mass migration of European immigrants to Australia as the White Australia policy was being systematically dismantled. The White Australia policy, as it was officially known, which came into effect post-1901, was intended to colonise Australia in a specific way.  

For Southern Italians, my family is quite fair-skinned so we had no problem migrating to Australia.  A family that came from the same village as my father were rejected though they tried numerous times to apply for immigration to Australia.  Their only difference was having a darker complexion. In Australia at that time it didn't matter if you were educated or disabled; as long as you were white you were in!  If you were British and white you could possibly get a discount for travel expenses. Apart from British (English) immigrants who were referred to as ‘pommie bastards’ every other migrant was called a ‘wog’.  Italians were special in that they were not only referred to as ‘wog’s’ but also as “dago’s”. I don't know why we Italians were selected to hold this honour though I was told by a local Australian it was because “hardly a day goes (dagos) by that you don't see one”. 

Racism was common in Australia prior to, during and following the White Australia policy. An English woman spat on me when I was a child and I knew then this was for nothing more than my ethnicity.  A couple of years later she told me with her thick English accent at least we look more like her than those new devils, the Asians. As a young child I thought her very unattractive with crooked teeth and bad skin.  I didn't really understand her motives and thought with horror ‘I don't want to grow up to look like you. Ever!’

Following the dismantling of the White Australia policy the next wave of mass migration occurred which became colloquially known as ‘The Asian Invasion’.  This occurred in the 1970’s at the end of the Vietnam war when Australia opened its doors to Vietnamese asylum seekers. Other Asian nations soon followed.  Since then Australia has seen the migration of many Middle Eastern and now African people. Each influx has suffered the same prejudices of those who came before them, often perpetrated by those who came before them, but xenophobia has mostly diminished.  The indigenous, penal colony descendants, wogs, Asians, Lebanese, Polynesians and African populations of Australia have created the rich multicultural tapestry that is now Australia. I count myself very fortunate that my family were able to migrate to Australia and reestablish ourselves in this wonderful, beautiful Southern land and I openly welcome those migrants yet to come.


* Immigrants have a range of adaptations to make once they arrive in Australia.  A part of Australian culture is the common use of swearing in everyday speech. Immigrants often find this shocking at first but quickly adapt by picking up this habit as a part of their new Australian way of life.  An example of this was my father who could often be heard swearing at the television if unhappy with the programming. “Poofter bastard” was one of his favourite curses. My father didn't really know what those words meant but males, females, animals, objects and countries were all “poofter bastards” when my father was upset.  My father embraced the Australian way of life in more ways than one.