Anglo-Indians Sail into White Australia, 1947

The mixed race group known as Anglo-Indians were once termed Eurasian, amongst other names such as Domiciled Indian, to differentiate them from the British living in India who saw themselves as Anglo-Indian.

My contribution to Being Eurasian, an exhibition with Abdul Abdullah at the Fremantle Arts Centre, includes paintings that depict the entry of Anglo-Indians, into Australia in 1947 at a time of the White Australia Policy. Dispatched by the Australian Government to rescue British citizens from India prior to its Independence and Partition, the docking of the HMAS Manoora in Fremantle on the 15th August 1947, with seven hundred Anglo-Indians along with twenty Polish refugees, was problematic. Immigration officials were unsure if the Anglo-Indians could be allowed entry given Australia’s White Australia policy. In order to save face and avoid embarrassment, the Minister allowed them entry into Australia. Seventy Anglo-Indians disembarked in Fremantle, the others bound for Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

Anglo-Indians were, therefore, the first mixed-race and non-white group of migrants to enter Australia during this period. The incident highlights questions of otherness and whiteness for Anglo-Indians, who were out of place in India and sought acceptance by the host community of white Australia.

Manoora For Fremantle 122 x 137cm, oil, 2013
Manoora For Fremantle
122 x 137cm, oil, 2013
The Welcome Wall 122 x 92 cm , oil, 2013
The Welcome Wall
122 x 92 cm , oil, 2013

Emergency (Certificate) no.1 122 x 92 cm, oil, 2013
Emergency (Certificate) no.1
122 x 92 cm, oil, 2013
Emergency (certificate) no.2 122 x 92 cm, oil, 2013
Emergency (certificate) no.2
122 x 92 cm, oil, 2013
Emergency (Certificate) no.3 92 x 84 cm, oil, 2013
Emergency (Certificate) no.3
92 x 84 cm, oil, 2013
Cargo, 117 x 78 cm, oil 2013
Cargo, 117 x 78 cm, oil
2013
Couple arriving, 66 x 86 cm, oil, 2013
Couple arriving, 66 x 86 cm, oil, 2013
Alien Invasion, 87 x 67 cm, oil, 2013
Alien Invasion, 87 x 67 cm, oil, 2013
Passenger, 36 x 31 cm, oil, 2013
Passenger, 36 x 31 cm, oil, 2013
Entry Point, 102 x 87 cm, oil, 2013
Entry Point, 102 x 87 cm, oil, 2013

 

Transcript of an interview with journalist Brendan McCartney for an article published in the Fremantle Herald Dec.28 2014

What made you become fascinated with the HMAS Manoora?

I came across a journal article by London based academic Professor Alison Blunt, who outlined the story of mixed race Anglo-Indians arriving in Fremantle during the White Australia period. As an Anglo-Indian I was fascinated by it.

The story:
Dispatched by the Australian Government to rescue British citizens from India prior to its Independence and Partition, the docking of the HMAS Manoora in Fremantle on the 15th August 1947, with seven hundred Anglo-Indians along with twenty Polish refugees, was problematic. Immigration officials were unsure if the Anglo-Indians could be allowed entry given Australia’s White Australia policy. In order to save face and avoid embarrassment, the Immigration Minister, Arthur Caldwell allowed them entry into Australia. Over 270 Anglo-Indians disembarked in Fremantle, the others bound for Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney

Anglo-Indians were, therefore, the first mixed-race and non-white group of migrants to enter Australia during this period. The incident highlights questions of otherness and whiteness for Anglo-Indians, who were out of place in India and sought acceptance by the host community of white Australia.

How long where the Anglo-Indians aboard the ship in Fremantle before they were allowed to come into Freo?

Their disembarkation wasn’t held up however an interesting cable from the High Commission in Dehli asked for confirmation that rumours that Anglo-Indians were put back on the Manoora and sent back were untrue. This cable is telling since it provides an insight into the paranoia concerning whiteness and mixed race communities-it also is reiterated today in the current government’s (election winning) slogan ‘Stop the Boats’ and ‘Turn back the boats.
Why do you think Australian authorities “caved-in” and allowed the Anglo-Indians in give the white Australia policy. (Especially given this quote by one politician who described the idea of a White Australian as a snow-white Australia)

Yes the snow white reference is about racial purity and miscegenation that produced mixed races was a threat to this idealised white nation. At this time Indigenous children were being taken away from their families to be raised separately in institutions and this was also to do with the stain of miscegenation. White Australia was also lauded as a land of peace, stability and freedom-so there was a great dose of denial embedded in this ideal.
The arrival of the Manoora was a well publicised event and for Minister Caldwell, it was a way of rescuing ‘Australians and to British people of pure European descent’from the violence of Partition-despite this the majority of those on board were Anglo-Indian. The publicity included the representation of Australia as free, democratic and peaceful as opposed to India, a land of violence and communal conflict. Interestingly, Anglo-Indians, as Christians were not targeted in the post Partition violence-they drove the trains that arrived in railway stations with cargos of butchered Muslims and Hindus! Given this publicity, letting them in was a face saving option- internationally few countries ( eg. South Africa) operated restrictive laws concerning race.
Was there much backlash from the community or the other side of government about letting them into Australia?
Yes, after this incident, the laws were tightened until the late 1960s and in 1973 White Australia was officially ended.

It must of being a harrowing time for the Anglo-Indians who would’ve already felt displaced in Indian?
Yes, Anglo-Indians were out of place in India and their identification with Britain and with all things British-in a newspaper article on the Manoora’s arrival it surprise by some that Anglo-Indians were granted entry-‘ it was remarked their mode of habits generally woul;d have to be greatly improved if they were to fit successfully into an Australian community’
How much do you think that moment lead to the dismantling off the White Australia policy years later?
I don’t think that incident lead to the questioning of racial purity, as mentioned above it resulted in its tightening up.

How would you describe you work? What materials do you use to paint etc…
As a painter I looked for images from the archives and the Newsreel-I was taken by the disembarkation of passengers and the gaze of its sailors which I havce used in a couple of works. There is plenty of historical White Australia material on the web and I made some use of this material for context. I use oil on canvas and was fascinated by the narrative-my work is painterly in nature so is not purely descriptive of the events and hopefully is about exciting image making. As mentioned earlier, I used archival material including the Cable and Wireless logo that depicts the representation of the cable network as a metaphor for mobility-I think telegrams are a thing of the past now?

How has that period in history inspired your work?
It’s been wonderful as it brings together the personal and the political for me. I also love researching in archives so this was a productive time. I have also made links with the Anglo-Indian Association in Perth and a growing awareness in me about Anglo-Indians and their past. How relevant this is to my children and theirs is questionable-I realise that culture is fluid and constructed.

Do you think Australia’s now are accepting of people from other cultures?
We are not in the ‘bad’ old days however, there has been countless studies on racism to show it is alive and well-Muslims and Asylum seekers are the latest to be ‘scape-goated’ so we have a long way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://heraldonlinejournal.com/2013/11/22/black-and-white-portraits/

http://www.liveguide.com.au/Events/911472/Abdul_Abdullah_and_Leslie_Morgan/Abdul_Abdullah_and_Leslie_Morgan_Being_Eurasian

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