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White Australia by Randolph Bedford


THEMES: Xenophobia, Immigration
LENGTH: 90 Minutes

White Australia tells of an attempted invasion by Japan, with help from some Northern Territory Aborigines and a white traitor, which is thwarted by a Northern Territory squatter.


Randolph Bedford’s White Australia tells of an attempted invasion by Japan, with help from some Northern Territory Aborigines and a white traitor, which is thwarted by a Northern Territory squatter. Set on Marandana Station in the Northern Territory, at the nearby Katherine Telegraph Station, and in the opium dens and joss houses of Port Darwin’s Chinatown in the first decade of the twentieth century, it centres around the Pearse family and their attempts to save Australia from a Japanese attack and occupation of the “White Man’s” land.

*The views expressed in White Australia do not reflect the views held by Playlab Theatre, any of its employees or affiliates.


Look, we would all rather not examine the terrible things we’ve done, but unfortunately that’s not how progress works.

This collection would not be complete without this play. This work brings us nose to nose with a period in history that is uncomfortable to acknowledge. Regardless it forms a part of our national identity, and we cannot ignore that.

The legislation behind the White Australia policy was deconstructed in 1973. That’s 44 years ago. The rubber soled shoe of the person who marched that order down to the office is still trying to rot away in landfill. We like to think that the White Australia policy was an ancient thing that died with the men who wrote it up. But it didn’t. It came into place just after Federation in 1901, and stayed there in perfect health for 72 years.

We do not have the luxury of these issues being behind us. We do not get to rest.

“Bedford’s play is a racist one and needs to be read (and taught) advisedly and for what it is: a document of the popular prejudices of its time. In the light of the national anxiety surrounding boat people and federal immigration policy here in Australia a full century later, the timing for its republication seems right — a jarring reminder to us all about the extent to which the invasion anxiety would appear to be a permanent feature of the Australian character,” – Stephen Carleton and Richard Fotheringham, 2013.


White Australia; or, The Empty North was staged at the King’s Theatre, Melbourne, on Saturday 26 June 1909.

ISBN: 978 1 921390 36 4

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