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From aliens to ethnics: Identity and citizenship in a study of Italians and Croatians in the Western Australian southwest timber industry 1919-1969

Gillgren, Christina (1998) From aliens to ethnics: Identity and citizenship in a study of Italians and Croatians in the Western Australian southwest timber industry 1919-1969. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The basis for the construction of Australian identity and citizenship in the period 1919-1969 was a sense of 'Britishness', underpinned by the 'white Australia' policy. This study of ltalians and Croatians in the Western Australian south-west timber industry shows the extent to which 'ethnic otherness', the cultural distance from Britishness so powerfully evoked by terms such as 'alien' and 'foreign', legitimated a regime of discriminatory immigration and settlement policies, regulations and practices directed at these groups.

This thesis demonstrates the importance of ltalian and Croatian timber workers to the south-west timber industry. It explores their experiences in the industry as they moved from immediate marginalisation in the 1920s to severely restricted work opportunities during the depression. Their interwar segregation, coupled with war measures underpinned their utilisation as a mobile rural workforce within the industry in the war years. This set the scene for the extension of discriminatory immigration and settlement practices in the postwar years when the 'right types' of ltalians and Croatians, 'sturdy and capable of heavy work', were grudgingly encouraged into the timber industry at a time of acute labour shortages.

This work explores the process of the construction of identity and a sense of 'belongingness' within the host society. The 'building blocks' to identity were negotiated primarily through the experiences of these immigrants within the timber industry, often the point of entry into the workforce in Western Australia, in the first years of settlement. Naturalisation, when this option was exercised, was usually a means to overcome economic disadvantage or to bridge cultural distance. This work poses a challenge to the historiography of citizenship, which focuses primarily on substantive rights, to re­evaluate citizenship mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion and their impact on identity construction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Layman, Lenore
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