Quarantine as a political tool

Quarantine, being an institution to protect public health and to facilitate trade (Customs), was in Australian history subject to the ideological dictates of those in power: the white men. In order to keep Australia “white” after the conquest of Aboriginal Australia by their forebears, these men ruled at the exclusion of humans who were not of their kind by virtue of the otherness in their skin colour, language and customs.

During the May 1881-February 1882 smallpox epidemic in Sydney, the first identified case was the little boy of a Chinese labourer living at the Rocks.

As explained in McCreery and McKenzie (2013), quarantine became the tool of white nationalism in the quarantine of the Chinese passengers from SS Ocean and SS Brisbane, when none of them actually had smallpox or had been in contact with those who had (McCreery and McKenzie, 2013, p. 583).


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