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Memento : Issue 25
Communists, spies and red tape 14 MEMENTO News from the National Archives IF YOU KNOW WHERE TO LOOK in our collection, you can uncover files from the Department of Immigration with the intriguing titles of 'secret corres- pondence' and 'restricted immigration'. Here you will come across records on the Petrov affair, files on the admission of suspected communists to Australia, and applications from Australian servicemen to bring their Japanese wives to Australia. These records document the Australian Government's administration of sensitive and non-European immigration over 70 years. Dating from the first decade of Federation to 1980, they reflect significant concerns which still resonate today. In them we find a history of Australia's attempts to guard its borders from external threats and to create a racial and political homogeneity within. The body of information is enormous in its range and variety and often contains moving and extraordinary human stories. The records reflect the government's role as a gatekeeper, scrutinising intending migrants. The bulk of the restricted immigration series (A2998) documents the controls placed on migrants (mostly Asian) and visitors, including those whose immediate family had settled here before Federation. They illustrate the impact of the White Australia Policy on Chinese Australians throughout the twentieth century. The secret correspondence series (A6980) is concerned with potential political or criminal threats posed by intending migrants. It shows the wide range of people entering Australia in the postwar period from almost every part of the globe. Both series provide an insight into Australia's conservative politics and racial attitudes at times in its history. They also constitute a history of the nation's present multicultural fabric. One of the more fascinating stories in the secret correspondence files concerns the emigration of White Russians from China to Australia. Copies of newspapers and magazines produced by the Macedonian, Greek and other communities in the 1950s can also be found in this series. Migrant case files reveal changes in the government's policies on Asian immigration over the period. A few files relate to suspected Nazi war criminals. While the individual stories are fascinating, collectively the records also show the characteristics of government administrations over time. The secret correspondence files reveal ASIO's power to influence the make-up of Australian society in the 1950s and 1960s. Migrant applications were vetted by ASIO which rejected people with any perceived communist connection. Those considered security risks were refused citizenship, sometimes for years. The files show how the change of policy that the Whitlam government introduced was reflected in decisions to reverse these refusals. Many of the files contain ASIO's advice to the Minister, which was rarely rejected. In the early 1950s, the Department of Immigration had the power to cancel the passports of citizens thought to be communists, some of them well-known Australians. Frank and Rosslyn Hardy's passports, for example, were impounded following a visit to Moscow, and returned to them only after approval at the highest level. A moving episode recorded in the files is the repatriation of Australian citizens of Yugoslav descent who had been persuaded to return to Yugoslavia in the late 1940s. Disillusioned by their experiences there, a number sought to return to Australia in the early 1950s. ASIO requested that each returnee be subjected to a security clearance before they were granted re-admission. In contrast, the Department of Immigration supported the right of Australian citizens to re-enter the country without going through this process. These records demonstrate the human impact of the bureau- cracy on individuals, often in distressing and difficult circum- stances. Many are case files, accessible through the name of the applicant. Others are policy files where the title is a guide to the contents. They are a rich source of primary material on a subject of great significance to Australia as a nation. Evdokia Petrov at Mascot Airport, Sydney being 'escorted' across the tarmac to a waiting plane by two armed Russian diplomatic couriers. During a refuelling stop at Darwin airport, Mrs Petrov joined her husband, Vladimir Petrov, in requesting political asylum in Australia, 1954. NAA: A6201, 62