A significant majority of white Australians are descended from immigrants from Great Britain or Ireland. In previous historical periods, "White Australian" was regarded as synonymous with Anglo-Celtic Australian. However, this technically excluded European Australians of non-British or Irish ancestry. Some have argued that the term "Anglo-Celtic" is entirely a product of multiculturalism. For example, historian John Hirst wrote in 1994: "Mainstream Australian society was reduced to an ethnic group and given an ethnic name: Anglo-Celt."
White Australians as a proportion of the population increased during the 20th century, as a result of the "White Australia Policy", which was intended to restrict non-white immigration. From 1947, the "post-war migration boom", meant Australia's population more than doubled, spurred by large-scale European migration. The incremental abolition of the White Australia Policy, culminating in the 1973 Immigration Act, resulted in a significant increase in immigration from Asian countries.