Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Digital Documents Record

570 Letter to Water Police State from Sergeant John Donohoe regarding the 'Afghan', 1888

Full Document Caption:
Sergeant John Donohoe reports on a directive by NSW authorities to transfer Chinese immigrants from the ship 'Afghan' to the 'Hero'. Sergeant Donohoe agreed with the Chinese doctor on board that conditions on the 'Hero' were unsanitary. As not all Chinese passengers would agree to the transfer they were not moved to the ‘Hero’. Donohoe reports that if passengers were to be forced onto the ‘Hero’ he would order a Health inspection of the boat.

Source: NSW State Archives, Colonial Secretary’s Special Bundle, Prohibition of Chinese immigration into Australia, 4/884.1

Region: Date From: 1881 To: 1888
New South Wales - Sydney    

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Water Police Station
Sydney 8th May 1888.

I beg to report, for your information, that in accordance with your instructions I was present this morning when the Chinese passengers were about to be transferred from the S.S. "Afghan" into the hulk "Hero" at Neutral Bay. One of the Chinese passengers who acts as a doctor amongst them inspected the place they were to be consigned to, and expressed his dissent to me at the accommodation afforded, and from my own observation I considered it would be highly dangerous to health for any human being to be compelled to live in it, even for a few days, as the old vessel has been laid up for years decaying. She is both filthy and illventilated, and, in my opinion, if the Chinese were compelled to live under the conditions that were seen on the "Hero", they would either create some disease amongst themselves, or they would turn out in open rebellion in a few days, that is as far as the "Hero" is concerned. I may now state that the police guard on board did not in any way interfere with the action of the Chinese, one way or the other; but after they had interviewed some Chinese Interpreters who came on board to explain their position, the Melbourne portion of the passengers refused to leave the "Afghan" under any consideration. I then informed the captain of the "Afghan" that my instructions were that unless all the passengers on the "Afghan" went to the hulk together of their own free will, I could not permit their transfer. I subsequently reported the matter to the Acting Inspector General, who instructed me that should any effort me [sic] made to force the Chinese into the hulk, to request an inspection of her by the Health Authorities, with a view to ascertain whether she was in a fit state and proper sanitary condition for the occupation of human beings.

(Sgt) John Donohoe