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To what extent can Australia be analysed as an ‘ethnocracy’, a term usually reserved for ostensibly democratic societies in which an ethnic group or groups control the life opportunities of a more widely ethnically diverse population? Australia adopted its first refugee policy in 1977 having been forced to address the humanitarian claims of Asian and Middle Eastern refugees. Only a few years after abandoning the White Australia policy of three generations, the public discourse about refugees was framed by the ethnic origins of these groups (primarily Vietnamese and Lebanese). Over the decades a utopian light has come to be cast on the Indo Chinese as a success story in settlement, while the Middle Eastern peoples have been shaded as a settlement failure. Yet the counter narratives developed in the SBS television documentary series “Once Upon a Time...” demonstrate how ethnocratic framing can be challenged and more nuanced and analytical discourses introduced into the public sphere.
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