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Debating Australia’s immigration policy

When SBS announced their 2010/11 content lineup with the pledge to ‘push boundaries’, you may wonder how further episodes of Who do you think you are? constitute anything but more of the same. One new program however may actually come good on their promise. Immigration Nation: A Secret History Of Us is a documentary that explores a conflict existing within Australian history; how a nation constructed on utopian ideals of progress and enlightenment harboured paradoxical notions of racial superiority.¬†Beginning with Federation in 1901, Immigration Nation charts Australian history through the voices of immigrants, from the racism of the White Australia policy to a modern country now amongst the most diverse on the planet.

The documentary makers are certainly ambitious and have identified an interesting and relevant part of Australian history and culture to explore. The recent events on Christmas Island, where a boat carrying refugees crashed onto the shore leading to 48 deaths, was a stark reminder of Australia’s¬†continuing problems with immigration. To coincide with Immigration Nation, a series of discussion programs will be broadcast on SBS Radio to further explore the issues raised during the series. A further discussion will take place at the Old Parliament Building in Canberra in partnership with the Museum of Australian Democracy.

If Immigration Nation fulfils its promise, it may be a welcome catalyst for constructive debate regarding Australia’s attitude towards race and immigration in the country.

Immigration Nation premieres on SBS-ONE on Sunday 9 January 2011, at 8:30pm. The three part series concludes on 23 January.

The full SBS program schedule is here.

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