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Glossary of terms used in immigration, 1901—39

National Archives of Australia, website fact sheets


Term used in this period to describe a person residing in Australia, born in or belonging to another country, who had not acquired citizenship by naturalisation and was not entitled to the political rights, powers and privileges of a citizen. It also applied to non-Europeans wishing to migrate to Australia. It is in inverted commas throughout the Guide since it is a term which is seldom used today.

assisted immigrants

Immigrants who were selected or nominated under government schemes and received free or reduced fares and/or other concessions.

Atti di Chiamata – See Letter of Call system. Italian nomination papers (literally acts of calling) for relatives and friends in Italy nominated to come to Australia by Australian residents of Italian origin.

certificate of domicile

Under the Immigration Act 1901, any person domiciled in the Commonwealth of Australia who wished to leave temporarily could apply to the Collector of Customs at the port of departure for a certificate of domicile. Holders of these certificates were permitted to re-enter the country without being required to sit the dictation test. Certificates of domicile were replaced by Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test (CEDT).

certificate of exemption

Certificates of Exemption were introduced by the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. The ‘exemption’ referred to is exemption from the dictation test. Certificates of Exemption were issued to both Europeans and non-Europeans entering Australia temporarily. The certificates were a form of entry visa or permit. Issue of the certificates ceased in 1958 with the abolition of the dictation test.

certificates of exemption from the dictation test (CEDTs)

Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test were introduced as a result of 1905 amendments to the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, replacing certificates of domicile. Like the certificates of domicile they were essentially re-entry permits, allowing holders of the certificates to re-enter the country without being required to sit the dictation test. Issue of the certificates ceased in 1958 with the abolition of the dictation test.

child migration

Children migrating without parent(s) or guardian. Children migrating as part of a family unit are not included in this category. They were often sponsored by non-government philanthropic or Church organisations.

dictation test

Under the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 non-Europeans intending to enter Australia could be required to write out a dictated passage, not less than fifty words in length, in any European (after 1905, any prescribed) language. Those who failed to write out the dictated passage correctly could be refused entry.

female migration

Female migration refers to the immigration of women who migrated alone unaccompanied by either husbands or families. They were often sponsored by governments or private organisations.

Letter of Call system (Atti di Chiamata)

The Atti di Chiamata, or letter of call, was a nomination system whereby Italians residing in Australia could apply for the admission of a countryman through the Italian Consul General who, if satisfied, issued a paper to approved applicants bearing an endorsement of their landing permit.


This is the recognition of an ‘alien's’ rights to citizenship in Australia and the provision of citizenship rights identical to those of Australian-born subjects.

nominated immigrants

Immigrants (named and un-named) nominated by a sponsor or guarantor in Australia who would assume responsibility for them and often contribute to the fare. The government rebate was generally one third of the ordinary third class fare. Regulations and conditions differed over time, usually including age, health, character and vocational provisions. In the case of British immigrants, the nominator had to supply the name and address of the nominee and supply an undertaking (at times legal, at times moral) that the nominee upon arrival in Australia would not become a burden on the state. In other words, the nominator was responsible for the maintenance of the nominee. As applied to European migrants in the first half of the 1920s, the guarantor had to be a close relative. In other years, friends could also be nominated. Group nomination, for example by non-government organisations involved in child or vocational migration, was also possible.


Definitions of ‘refugee’ have changed over time. The Department of the Interior in 1939 applied the term ‘refugee’ to persons of German nationality, or former German, Austrian, or Czechoslovakian nationality, against whom there was political discrimination. Before this, the term applied to various ethnic and religious groups, including refugees from the Saar, Russians, Poles, Armenians, Germans, Spanish, Austrians, Jews and Catholics.

selected immigrants

Assisted migrants who had been selected by government officials as having satisfied

certain requirements of age, health and occupation.

white alien’

A term used in government documents and the press in this period referring to Europeans, and especially Southern Europeans. It implied ‘white’ but non-British. The bulk of ‘white aliens’, as defined in official papers, embraced Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs and Poles.

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