Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

CHAF Conference paper abstracts

Toylaan AH KET

'William Ah Ket - Reconciling Occident and Orient in Australia during the early years of Federation'

My father, William Ah Ket (Marc Sec Cheong), was born in Wangaratta in 1876, the only son among a family of five daughters of Chinese parents who settled in Australia at the end of the Gold Rush in the 1850s. William Ah Ket, as he was known during the 1900-1936 Federation era, rose to prominence as a successful lawyer, the first Australia-born Chinese barrister to practice in Melbourne. He was a major figure in the Chinese community of the time, and in the early Federation years he was closely associated with a small circle of leading Chinese citizens which included Lowe Kong Meng, Quong Tart, and the Rev. Cheok Hong Cheong. In 1901, William Ah Ket supported the creation of a committee to agitate against the government's proposed Immigration Restriction Bill, and other discriminatory legislation such as the Poll Tax on Chinese immigrants, the Dictation Test, and Registration. He was a member of the Chinese Empire Reform Association of 1904, and of the Anti-Opium League of Victoria. He made several submissions in opposition to the Victorian Government attempts to introduce The Factories Act between 1904 and 1907 which aimed to drive the Chinese out of the Cabinet and Furniture-makers trade. He was also co-founder and president of the Australian-Chinese Association, the first Australian Chinese Club. William Ah Ket was appointed by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to represent Victoria's Chinese at the Conference of overseas Chinese as delegate to attend the first meeting of the National Parliament of Sun Yat Sen's Republic in 1912. He was also twice Consul-General for China in Australia, in 1913-14 and in 1917. William Ah Ket's dedication to foster understanding and co-operation between the West and East led to his co-founding, with William J. Liu, of the George Ernest Morrison lectureship in Ethnology in Canberra, a foundation which continues into the new millennium. My paper will follow the influence of William Ah Ket's contribution to the reconciling of Occidental and Oriental thought against the background of his personal involvement in the legal, political and social developments occurring in China and Australia during the Federation years from the 1890s until his death in 1936.



'Citizens of Heaven: The contribution of Chinese Christians towards Australian Federation'

Chinese in Australia, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, who retained their traditional customs were often alienated from the rest of the community and even suffered violent persecution. However, others who converted to Christianity appeared to adapt more fully into the local Australian lifestyle, whilst maintaining strong cultural and political involvement. Many prominent Chinese businessmen were involved in charitable work and Christian activity, both locally and in their native provinces in China. Some scholars argue that these entrepreneurs became involved in Christian churches and charitable service to gain acceptance in Australian society and to further their own political agendas. This paper will examine this theory and by examining their reputations and achievements, to discover the true motivation of these Citizens of Heaven and will discuss their unique contributions, surrounding the Australian Federation years.



'"He would be a Chinese still": negotiating boundaries of race, culture and identity in late nineteenth century Australia'

In the years leading to Federation, racial and cultural difference played an important part in white Australia's attempt to define the Australian nation and the Australian citizen. Boundaries were placed between those of European heritage and the non-white 'Other'. The lives of those termed 'half-caste Chinese', predominantly children born of white mothers and Chinese fathers, demonstrate however that the boundaries between white Australia and the Chinese 'Other' were not fixed and statisc, but could be traversed and twisted. In this paper I would like to investigate how, in the decades leading up to Federation, Australians of mixed Chinese-European heritage negotiated the cultural and racial boundaries of white Australia and how their identities (as 'Chinese', as 'half-caste', as 'Australian') were constructed.


Raphael BEH

'The power of procession'

The history of the Chinese in Bendigo is intertwined with the history of the Bendigo Easter Procession. This annual event aimed at raising funds for local charities has been a continual tradition of the Chinese since 1871. The year 2000 is also the 130th Anniversary of the Bendigo Easter Procession! Although the Chinese were not always welcome in the community, many gained respect in the society as a result of their involvement in the Easter Procession. This paper will examine the history of the dragons in the procession, now housed in the Golden Dragon Museum, and their significance to the community. Our dragon 'Loong', was taken to Melbourne in 1901 to appear in the Chinese Procession to celebration Australia's Federation. Next year, in 2001 'Loong' will again appear as part of the celebration for the Centenary of Federation. Where Chinese communities in other gold mining towns have disappeared since the gold rush era, the Chinese community in Bendigo has flourished, continuing to develop and gain recognition as part of the Bendigo community.


Frank BREN

'Phantom Pacific - Chinese movies in Australia'

Chinese cinema and opera have long been important to Chinese communities abroad - vital to their inner lives and a means of 'networking' socially. This paper surveys Chinese films in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji from the earliest times. By the 1920s, when China began exporting films, Australia had experienced at least a patchy history of Chinese theatre, mostly in the 19th century. In Melbourne, in 1930, leading Chinese residents decided that their 'countrymen and others interested' should see at least one Chinese film. They purchased The Poor Daughter in Law, a silent film produced in Shanghai and eventually released by Independent Films (Melbourne) as The Loves of Fu Sen. It ran for 2 weeks and attracted some excellent reviews. According to The Bulletin: 'If the silent film survives, it will reach its highest expression in China. All the actors are consummate pantomimists'. What happened between then and 1963 when the so-called 'first Chinese film' ever to be shown in Australia premiere in Sydney? Apart from those earlier years, the paper examines the 'deluge' that, from the 1970s, made Chinese cinema a major source of theatrically released films in Australia.


Michael BRUMBY

'Doctor William Lam Pan and the Chinese Legacy of the Charters Towers Goldfield'

In late 1889 a Joss House was built at Millchester, the sister township of Charters Towers. Alongside it was the residence of it caretaker, Doctor William Lam Pan. Lam Pan was a herbalist who had arrived from the Gilbert River Goldfield in 1873. He practised his ancient craft at Charters Towers until his death in 1910. Dr. Lam Pan was invited by the civic leaders of Charters Towers to address Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland, when he visited the town on 22 June 1899. This event apexed the goldfield community's shift in regard and respect for the Doctor as well as for the people he represented. It came to displace many of the Sinophobic sentiments of the goldfield's first twenty five years and to pave the wave for a new life in a new nation in a new century. How this came to be and what remains of that experience is the subject of this conference paper.


Henry CHAN

'From 'John Chinamen' to 'mild colonial boys': Chinese Australian since Federation and the challenge for 'imaginary Australians' in the twenty-first century'

Despite being excluded on racial grounds from participating in the Australian nation created at Federation, John Chinamen have served White Australia with great distinction particularly in both war and diplomacy. A hundred years later the contribution of Chinese Australians to all aspects of Australian life may be illustrated by three events: in 1999 an Australian heart surgeon of Chinese descent was the "people's choice" of the "Australian of the Century"; a young Chinese-Australian international human rights lawyer was recently profiled by the ABC as "a mild colonial boy"; and in October the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics will carry on an Olympic tradition first suggested to the organisers on the Melbourne Games in 1956 by a young Chinese Australian. However, it would appear that many White Australians still imagine an Australia as the Federation founders did, and still harbour 'the desire that we should be one people, and remain one people, without the admixture of other races' that motivated the Federation fathers a hundred years ago. This closing address will suggest some challenges that face both White Australians and Chinese Australians as we confront the realities of the twenty-first century. (See for an earlier version of this paper)



'One village - two names: A Tasmanian Chinese on a wild dragon chase'

Helene Chung Martin, former ABC Peking correspondent, author of Shouting from China and now Research Associate at the Monash Asia Institute, is a fourth-generation Tasmanian and a second-generation Australian-born Chinese. A century after her maternal great grandfather was lured by tin to Tasmania in the 1880s, she would send the Chinese in her ancestral home on a 'wild dragon chase'. In 1901 her grandfather, following his father's example, tried his luck in the Tasmanian tin mining town of Weldborough. His success enabled him to send his father back to Toishan to die, while he headed south to Hobart to establish a business, changing the family name, Jin or Yian, to Henry. Of his six children, his eldest son Gordon Henry became a model member of the community; while his second youngest daughter - Helene's mother Dorothy - caused a scandal with the first Chinese divorce in Australia. Hobart's two main Chinese families - the Henrys and Helene's father's family, the Chungs - were feuding clans and not on speaking terms for most of her life. Despite her name, Helene thinks of herself as a Henry - something the Toishan county officials didn't know when they set about to surprise her with a visit to her ancestral village.



'The Chinese community in Ballarat in the late nineteenth century'

Large numbers of Chinese miners in search of gold moved into the Ballarat district from the early 1850s. They established a stable Chinese community within the general populace of the town and many diversified their activities away from mining. These tended towards commercial ventures. The Chinese village and commercial zone lasted well into the twentieth century but is now entirely removed from the Ballarat landscape. Most long-term Chinese residents in Ballarat were located in the area around Main Road, Ballarat East. The Chinese community represented a significant percentage of the male population of Ballarat East and formed a stable village within the European town. Although most of the Chinese arrived to work in mining, few had a professional mining background. A section of these people helped to establish sales and services for their community and this became the visible component of the village. The area had shops, hotels and entertainment venues owned and operated by Chinese businessmen. After the change in migration laws at the end of the nineteenth century, the ageing Chinese community gradually declined in numbers. The village fell into disrepair and the number of Chinese businesses also declined. By the early 1960s all signs of the community had been removed except for the large Chinese cemeteries. However there are still families of Chinese descent in the area and increasing interest in family history can only help put a human face to the role of the Chinese in the development of early Ballarat.



'Unbroken commitment: Fred Wong, China, Australia and a world to win'

Born in Australia in 1905 of Chinese parents, Fred Wong was sent to China to receive a traditional Chinese education. Returning to Australia Wong became a greengrocer in Leichhardt, a working class inner Sydney suburb. When Japan intensified its undeclared war against China in 1937 he rallied to China's defence. With other Chinese patriots he founded the Chinese Youth League which promoted the cause and culture of China. Wong's popularity and wide-range of contacts in Sydney's Chinese community and amongst trade unionists was put to practical use throughout the late 1930s and the war years. During the 1939 Pig Iron Strike at Port Kembla Wong collected and carted vegetables and fruit Chinese market gardeners donated to the families of striking wharf labourers. The wharfies' refusal to load scrap iron on to a vessel bound for Kobe because they believed the cargo would be converted to guns and bombs in Japan's military conquest of China drew strong support from those Chinese on the margins of Australian society. After the 1937 Silksworth dispute when Chinese seamen left their English ship in Newcastle, NSW rather than return to a Japanese controlled port in China Wong helped to form the Chinese Seamen's Union (CSU). Throughout the war years Wong as the CSU's secretary assisted Australia's maritime unions struggle to improve the wages, working and living conditions of Chinese mariners in foreign-owned vessels and found refuge for those Chinese seamen who refused to return to war torn China. In the immediate post-war years Wong was a leading activist in the pro-Indonesian independence movement. With money donated from Chinese businesses and other sources Wong planned to buy flying boats from the Australian government to establish an airservice for the Indonesian Republic. Wong, who could not swim, drowned in a boating accident when he was about to inspect the aircraft. Fred Wong, a Chinese greengrocer, gave unbroken commitment to Australia to the homeland of his parents and ancestors and to an Indonesian nation arising from colonialism.



'Selected women of Melbourne's Chinatown from 1900 to 1920'

After the gold rushes, many Chinese did not settle and bring out their wives and instead became sojourners, traveling between China and Australia - family and work. In 1921 the number of Chinese women as a proportion of the total Chinese population in Australia had risen to only 6.7 percent. However there were Chinese women who migrated to Australia and Chinese men did form relationships with women of non-Chinese backgrounds. This paper will identify some of the Chinese and non-Chinese women who lived and were associated with the eastern end of Little Bourke Street, also known as Melbourne's Chinatown. These women's involvement in life in the street was diverse. This paper will also explore their relationship with the Chinese in the area.



'Liang Qichao in Australia: a sojourn between political defeat and intellectual productivity'

For just over six months between 25th October 1900 and 2nd May 1901, Liang Qichao lived in Australia, spending most of his time in Sydney after having travelled from Western Australia to the then Eastern 'colonies' of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Liang's visit to Australia is one of the least known episodes of his illustrious political and intellectual career because he wrote very little about his visit. Yet the time Liang spent in Australia falls between two very significant events in his life. It was preceded by the disastrous failure of the uprising in Central China, in which he had played a leading role in exile, and which had cost the lives of his friends and students. His departure from Australia was followed, eight months later, by a period of tremendous intellectual productivity that began with the founding of the Xin Min congbao (New Citizen journal) in Tokyo. It is also significant that during Liang's stay in Australia, the history of Federation was brought into existence through the inauguration of the Commonwealth State of Australia. Based largely on accounts drawn from a range of archival sources, this paper puts together a story of Liang's political campaigning and fundraising for the Baohuang Hui (Chinese Empire Reform Association) among Chinese communities in Australia. This story "tells" us something of both Australia's Chinese communities of the time and Liang Qichao's public persona in the early part of his political career. The meanings that this story may generate will also tell us something of our own historiographical desire for uncovering a truth beyond what the textual fragments of the past can be made to yield, a yearning which is perhaps further accentuated by the protagonist's historical prominence.


Basil Dewhurst and Doris Y.C. JONES

'Stories across a State: Golden Threads Project, NSW'

Drawing on material identified through the Golden Threads Project, this presentation will explore the ways in which our Chinese heritage and history is to be displayed in the Golden Threads exhibition and on the accompanying website. Objects, sites, local knowledge, local folklore, family histories, oral histories, photographs all have different and many layered stories to tell. These stories are being told in different forms and for a variety of audiences both on the website and in the Golden Threads Exhibition. Members of the Golden Threads Project team accompanied by the voices and stories of participants will provide a selection of specific examples to illustrate and analyse the diversity and complexity of the ways in which our Chinese heritage is being remembered in and for regional NSW.



'"Arrested development": The historiography of White New Zealand'

In comparison with the historiography of White Australia, work on White New Zealand is chronically under-developed. There is not one published book on the subject and general histories, even those dealing with the relevant period and politicians, tend to ignore New Zealand's white walls altogether or, at best, pay scant attention to them. On the other hand, there is a substantial body of unpublished post-graduate work, dating back to the 1930s on the subject. While this work has much of value, it tends, however, to consist of chronological accounts of the legislation rather than situating it in the context of NZ society of the time, or developing any theoretical framework. This paper sets out to show the under-development of the New Zealand work through a comparative review of Australian and New Zealand historiography and goes on to suggest that through fusing approaches from a number of disciplines a useful theoretical framework can be found for the examination of how and why the great white walls not only went up but were put up by politicians of the left, centre and right alike.


Professor John Fitzgerald

'Liang Qichao'a Australian Writings'

At the time of Federation, Australia hosted an exiled Chinese reformer who was touring the world in search of support for the reform party in China. Liang Qichao visited Australia for six months from October 1900 to April 1901. On his Australian tour Liang gave many speeches and press interviews, wrote a number of poems, and composed a long nationalist tract which he called "On Tracing the Source of China's Weakness" (Zhongguo jiruo suiyuanlun).

This paper offers a brief overview of Liang's speeches and interviews before focusing closely on the longer nationalist tract. In particular, the paper highlights the prominence of the ideal of equality among nations and peoples in Liang's world view. The idea that all people should be treated equally was alien to China, Liang observed. But it was also alien to Federation Australia where racial discrimination was widely accepted and practiced. Liang's commitment to the idea that all people should be treated equally helps to explain why he was so impressed to learn that women enjoyed equal voting rights with men in South Australia, and, a little later, to discover that the first labour government in the world came to power in Australia. It also explains why he felt so disappointed and angered by the White Australia Policy. If men and women could be granted equal rights, and capital and labour were now considered equal, why weren't races counted equal as well?



'Mixed relations'

During the colonial period Chinese/Aboriginal relations were a sore point for Aboriginal protection bureaucracies, and most legislation extended over Indigenous Australians from the 1890s to the 1930s bears the imprint of the contact between Asians and Aborigines in North Australia. How is the legacy of that contact dealt with in community histories and popular memory?


Golden Threads Project

'Stories across a state'

Drawing on material identified through the Golden Threads Project, this presentation will explore the ways and forms in which our Chinese heritage and history has been collected an presented in different parts of regional NSW. Objects, sites, local knowledge, local folklore, family histories, oral histories, photographs all have different and many layered stories to tell. They are stories which are being told in different forms and for a variety of audiences: exhibitions, website, talks, articles, books, video, heritage reports, education resources. Members of the Golden Threads Project team accompanied by the voices and stories of participants will provide a selection of specific examples to illustrate and analyse the diversity and complexity of the ways in which our Chinese heritage is being remembered in and for regional NSW.



'"A Death Blow to the White Australia Policy": Australian Rules Football and the Chinese Community in Victoria, 1892-1908'

This paper consists of several case studies which explore the complex relationship between ethnicity and sport in Victoria at the turn of the century. In particular, the circumstances surrounding a series of Australian Rules football matches played among 'full-blood' and 'half-caste' Chinese players in Ballarat between 1892 and 1896 are examined in detail. Designated a 'Chinese Football Premiership' by the local press, these matches represent an extremely rare example of western physical activities and games being embraced by the Chinese community in nineteenth century Australia. As such, the contests can be used as evidence for the acculturating influence of sport in a rural setting, especially given the tolerant manner in which instances of racial vilification were dealt with during the course of the 'Premiership'. It is in this context that a variety of newspaper accounts are used to investigate associations between the European and Chinese communities in the town. To this end, the vested interest of the police, charitable organizations, commercial enterprises, Chinese players, match officials and spectators in organizing and supporting these unique matches is critically examined. Other case studies that are also discussed include the Chinese football matches held as part of the St Vincent's Hospital Easter Fair in 1899, and the career of Wally Koo Choo, who played for the Carlton Football Club in 1908. Some general comments on the relationship between sport, ethnicity and Chinese communities at the time of Federation will also be offered.


Professor John HIRST (keynote speaker)

'Australian Federation and the exclusion of the Chinese'

The Immigration Restiction Bill of 1901 established the policy of White Australia for the new Commonwealth. Speaking in support of the measure, Alfred Deakin declared that no motive had operated more powerfully in bringing the colonies together 'than the desire that we should be one people and remain one people without the admixture of other races'. Since Deakin was one of the key players in the federation movement, this judgement is often accepted. However an examination of the federation campaigns reveals very little mention of immigration. This is not altogether surprising since the colonies in co-operation with each other had already taken effective measures to prohibit Chinese immigration. But in a deeper sense Deakin was right in that the idealism that sustained the federal movement had at its core a vision of fresh, young, pure nation which was defined in racial terms.



'Advertisements - A peep at the past'

Advertisements from the Bendigo Advertiser during the period 1880-1920 show us a view of the social and business life of the Bendigo Chinese from the perspective of the individuals who pay for the advertising. The subject of advertisements range from Amusements, Public Notices, Sermons and Lectures, Trade, Legal, Donations, and Police Gazette Notices, to the expected Funeral, Birth, Death and Marriage announcements. They show the kinds of businesses that the Chinese were allowed to trade in, and how the Chinese focused on their Caucasian customers. There were few advertisements concerning the Bendigo Chinese compared to the thousands of articles about the Chinese written by European journalists. The advertisements also show an aspect of the assimilation of the Australian born children from mixed marriages. Advertisements can be an important method of studying a local cultural group. A more thorough search of the advertising columns, particularly after 1900, will give us a better understanding of the social and business life of the Bendigo Chinese.


HOU Minyue

'Australia-China relations in the late Imperial Period'

The issue of Chinese immigration led to the bilateral contact at the levels of politics, diplomacy, security, as well as economy. 1. Following the rise of anti-Chinese agitation in Australia, in the late 19th century the Qing ( Ch'ing ) dynasty started to give attention to Australian affairs and seek moderate conditions for Australian Chinese for various reasons. The anti-Chinese movement, however, played an important role in the development of Australian nationalism and federalization. 2. The peak of Australia-China diplomatic contact via Britain in the 19th century was in the late 1880s, when particularly the Afghan incident and the second Intercolonial Conference evoked much response from the Qing Government. After years of efforts, Chinese Consulate General in Australia was finally set up in 1909, marking the establishment of formal official relations between the two countries. 3. The psychological idea of China threat, which was closely connected with the fear of Chinese mass emigration and the possible Chinese resurgence, was made full use of by the Australian politicians for their political ends. 4. Australia-China trade met a growth during the Gold Rush period when there was a quick upsurge of Chinese immigration. The appointment of a Trade Commissioner to China in 1921 created a chance for giving an impetus to the bilateral trade.


Amanda JEAN

'Australian Federation architecture in the "Chinese Taste"'

Federation in 1901 and the coronation of King Edward VII a year later, was celebrated throughout Australia with the construction of numerous public structures. These commemorative places were enthusiastically funded by public donation, officially opened by State Governors, heralded by honour guards, local bands, marches and maypole dances, in confirmation of the role Australia played as part of the power and majesty of the British Empire. What is not so commonly recognised is the contribution of the Chinese on what has become known as the Federation architectural style, the first uniquely Australian style of the new nation. In this paper several examples illustrating Chinese influence on commemorative structures of the early 20th century are explored. Examples are taken from the strongly symbolic elements used in the design of Federation bandstands, derived from 13th century Chinese pavilions, to the work of Harold Desbrowe-Annear, regarded as the Father of modern Australian architecture, who was born in Bendigo and who in 1901 designed the meeting hall of the See Yup Temple in South Melbourne. The Australian European interpretation of the Chinese features of these buildings are contrasted with those traditional structures which were constructed by the Australian Chinese community for their own use in the first decades of Federation, such as the Yiu Ming Temple complex at Retreat Street in Alexandria, Sydney and the earlier Josh House in Bendigo.


Doris Y.C. JONES

'Where did they go once they left the Australian shore?'

It is a common belief among the Chinese people that if the remains of the dead are not returned to their places of birth, the spirits of the deceased will linger on causing malignant consequences. Therefore the descendants of deceased Chinese (and/or the Chinese communities in Australia) tried to ensure future good fortune by tirelessly making arrangements for the transshipment of the remains of the deceased to their places of birth. By studying the Chinese section of the Rookwood cemetery in Sydney, it is possible to find the number of the bodies exhumed that were presumable shipped back to their places of origin, but little is known what happened to them. The purpose of this paper is an attempt to reconstruct what happened to the exhumed remains using an anthropological approach in conjunction with archaeological evidence.



'What happened to the Chinese between the World Wars'

For two decades after Federation, the institutional development of Australian citizenship was marked by the progressive adoption of exclusionary laws directed at the economic, social and political lives of 'coloureds'. The last of these laws, the Nationality Act, was passed in 1920. This paper looks at the activism of Chinese Australians in the face of the restrictive legal and bureaucratic processes to which they were subjected in the inter-war years to explore two questions. First, in what ways did they develop on their experiences of the Federation period to campaign more effectively for group and individual rights? Second, how did their changing relations with China bear on the conditions of their Australian domicile?


KOK Hu Jin

'Beechworth temple summary'

In my paper I interpret the inscriptions on several wooden panels held in the Burke Museum in Beechworth, Victoria. They comprise random fragments of building decoration, and are accompanied by other decorative panels and artifacts. To these incomplete sources, I apply the basic tools of the five cardinal points of direction, five elements, five colours, the changing seasons, the seasonal flowers, the animals and celestial bodies as they appear in the Chinese Almanac. I refer extensively to Chinese dictionaries and to literary, and specifically Hung League, source material. In this way, I reconstruct a Temple of Beechworth in the 1870s, deducing it held three deities (Guan Di, Saint Hung, and the Star God of Wealth), that its underlying philosophy derived from Taoism, Confucianism, an Buddhism - three in one, and that members of its congregation belonged to a Hung League Lodge which established that temple. I describe links to the temple of miners, many of whom were buried in Beechworth Cemetery. A proportion of them, at least, had been political refugees from China, having opposed the Tsing dynasty, and migrating to Australia in search of gold, retaining their political, social and organisational ties. While from the 1850's the Australian authorities systematically and repeatedly took steps to exclude them from political, social and economic opportunities here, their strong links proved to be part of a powerful resource when Dr. Sun Yat Sen sought support for a republic in China.



'Report on a study of a pre-Federation Chinese community in the colonial border town of Wahgunyah, north-eastern Victoria'

Documents and other primary source material from the nineteenth century indicate the presence of an active Chinese community in the Rutherglen district of northeastern Victoria dating back to at least the mid 1860s. This community was centred upon a settlement within the Murray Rivertownship of Wahgunyah and was actively involved in the economic development of the local wine industry and surrounding pastoral industry. This paper reports on this particular Chinese community, in particular discussing the economic and social interaction of the Chinese and non-Chinese in what was by and large a mutually beneficial and harmonious arrangement. The paper is based upon original research into the community and like a number of other regional studies of Chinese communities, demonstrates complex interaction between the Chinese and Europeans which belies many of the general stereotypical perceptions of overt racism and animosity. The study also has particular relevance to the topic of Australian Chinese communities and federation as Wahgunyah served as a strategic crossing point between the colonies of Victoria and New South Wales. By looking at the federation issues of trade and anti-Chinese sentiment at a local level, questions arise as to how in touch colonial governments were to the realities in rural communities. It was within communities such as Wahgunyah and its adjoining border township of Corowa on the New South Wales side of the Murray that the impacts of Chinese inter-colonial movement and trade customs were dealt with at a grass roots level. There are indications that the importance of the Wahgunyah Chinese community extended beyond being a valuable source of labour for the local vineyards. Wahgunyah may well have been a vital link in the networking of Chinese throughout Victoria and the vast Riverina district of New South Wales during periods of colonial anti-Chinese legislation.



'Lee Hang Gong/Sarah Bowman family history research: A progress report and oral history case study'

This paper is a progress report on research into my family history conducted with the assistance of Allan O'Neil, Jill Godwin and others. The first part will be a family history of brief genealogy report (from 1854 to early 1900s) of the Chinese born Lee Hang Gong and his English born wife, Sarah Bowman, who married in the goldfields of Creswick, Victoria and lived there as merchants for about ten years. It will relate their move with their children to Palmerston (known as Darwin, post 1911) in the Northern Territory where they settled and set up business. The family became well-known in Darwin and links with China were maintained. These links gradually lessened as more generations were born in Australia. Over 700 descendants are now on the tree. Most of them were born in Australia. The paper will touch on some of the aspects which still need to be explored. For example, the social conditions of the Pearl River Delta village in the 1850s; and the reasons that Lee Hang Gong became a naturalised Australian twice. The second part will look at selected aspects of the lives of people on one branch of the tree, based on oral history (from the 1900s to the 1950s).


Maurice Leong

'The role of the See Yup Society in Melbourne and Victoria'

After the Opium War the Chinese suffered great hardship and were forced to look for ways to a better life. One way was to seek fortune outside of China through temporary migration. Britain had annexed Hong Kong after the Opium War and as the See Yup (Four Counties) district in the Guangdong Province was very close to Hong Kong this provided an easy route for the See Yup people to travel to Australia. The See Yup people came to the gold rushes in waves. In 1854 they formed a society for their own protection and welfare as there was no Chinese diplomatic representation in Australia at that time. Branches also formed in places such as Ballarat, Castlemaine and Bendigo. The See Yup Society established guidelines for members to follow to reduce the friction with white Australians. In the cities the Society was a welfare society but it also supported local charities, hospitals etc and kept Chinese culture and religion alive by through music groups, temples and processions. Links to the motherland were also kept. Money was sent back to China for flood and famine relief and in 1911 support for the new Nationalist Government. Although denied citizenship, the Chinese within the See Yup Society celebrated the visit of the Duke of York (George V) to Melbourne in 1920 with a pageant and decorations. The See Yup Society become the largest and most important Chinese society in Victoria. However in the 1930s after a major restructure the Chung Hwa Society took over much of the role of the See Yup Society in Melbourne. The See Yup Society became increasingly focussed on their own members' welfare rather than the broader Chinese community. In the 1980s they also restructured and part of that restructure involved adopting a representative council. Now, as well as caring for their members they have more of an outward focus which includes running weekend Mandarin and Cantonese classes which are open to Australians of all backgrounds.


LIU Luxin

'The Tung Wah Times: A window into Chinese community history'

The Tung Wah Times (1902-1936 previously the Tung Wah News 1898-1902) is probably the most important publication in the history of Australia's Chinese communities. This presentation, based on close reading of the newspaper over the Federation period, is organised into three parts: first it offers a brief description of the newspaper, secondly it traces its role and functions in Australian Chinese communities, and finally it evaluates the newspaper as a resource for researching the history of Australia's Chinese communities. For many years, the newspaper was an important community centre for the Chinese in Australia. It served as the head office of the Australian Chinese Empire Reform Association and other community organisations, including the NSW Chinese Merchants' Society. It also provided a venue for many community functions - including protest rallies, and celebrations of the birthdays of Confucius and the Chinese Emperor - and it served as a bridge linking communities with their motherland. The high-quality editorial and comments on many social and political affairs reflected the views of Chinese communities in Australia. The Tung Wah Times also provides rich resources for the study of Chinese communities in Australia, for researching events in China, and for tracing the history of other Chinese communities around the world.


Paul Macgregor

Christianity, Modernism and Nationalism in Melbourne's Chinese Community, 1890s-1920s

A growing belief amongst Chinese after the defeat of China by Japan in 1894 was that China needed to develop itself along Western lines, in order to achieve the strength to be an equal on the world stage with European and other powers. This coincided with the goals of western Christian missionary endeavour in China which included not only Christian conversion, but also the improvement of China through the transmission of Western education and cultural values, and the development of social institutions along benevolent lines, such as hospitals, schools and universities.

Chinese Christian evangelists and church leaders in Melbourne, such as Cheong Cheok Hong, saw their work in Australia as part of the wider campaign of developing evangelists to become missionaries in China. This goal also dovetailed with the rising call in the overseas Chinese communities for political, social and cultural reform in China. Christian Chinese in Melbourne as a result became significant players in the Chinese political organisations which developed in Melbourne during the late 1890s to the 1920s.

The Baohuang Hui (Protect the Emperor, or constitutional reform, Society, 1900-1904), the Chinese Empire Reform Association (1904ff), Sino-Australian Association (1906-1913), and the Chinese Nationalist Party (1920ff), all had significant numbers of Christians on their committees. Some also had links with Australian political leaders, including King O'Malley, the Minister for Home Affairs, who brought Walter Burley Griffin to Australia to design the new Australian capital.

When the Chinese Nationalist Party branch in Melbourne set up its headquarters in 1920, it turned to Walter Burley Griffin to design the fašade of their building. Was the choice of architect a reflection of the desire for a modern China to use the most modern of contemporary architects? Did it reflect a conscious association between the new Australian nation and the new republican Chinese nation? And how much did this choice reflect the cultural values which contemporary Christianity brought to the Chinese community?



'The impact of the white Australia policy on Chinese communities: 1901-1936'

An overview of the impact of racially discriminatory white Australia policy on the Chinese communities in the first four decades of its operation, this paper will discuss the reduction of the Chinese population, the range of economic activities, and patterns of movement between Australia and China. It will also consider ways in which individuals managed to circumvent restrictions and reforms which were made in the administration of the policy



'The construction of Chinese class in early twentieth-century Australia'

The discussion of Chinese identity in Australia is not often couched in terms of class, unless it is to distinguish between the nineteenth century 'coolie' worker and the wealthy Chinese merchant. There is little sense of there having been a Chinese 'working-class' in twentieth-century Australia. In China there was a strong working-class movement in evidence by the early 1920s. In Australia, in contrast, the development of such a movement was cut short by the restrictive policies of White Australia. This paper will consider the steps taken by the Labor government and union officials to remove Chinese workers from wage-labour in Australia, focusing on changes in the 1910s. These restrictions meant that Chinese were forced either to leave the country or to become self-employed. If representations of Chinese Australians tend to understate class difference it is perhaps as a result of this dramatic reshaping of Chinese society in Australia. The removal of opportunities for wage labour effectively hampered the development of any sense of Chinese Australian working-class identity.


Vivienne McWATERS

'Poor John': Chinese and the charitable institutions of Beechworth, Victoria " What is the value of the life of 'Poor John'? Could it be a pound of rice and a pound of salt? Poor John got on well with his fellow countrymen and loved life in the Chinese camps of the North East of Victoria. There was a presence of mateship and community there. There was a time when the outdoor food relief provided by the Ovens Benevolent Asylum was rationed equally to the Chinese settlers and European settlers alike. But as there were so many Chinese applicants for charity, the Committee of the Ovens Benevolent Asylum voted to halve the rations supplied to the Chinese, despite the fact that the Chinese had contributed financially to the charitable institutions of Beechworth, more than any other nationality. European recipients of the charity were provided with tea, flour, sugar and meat; the Chinese received rice and salt only, even though they begged to be supplied with meat so that they could make soup. What was to become of 'Poor John', who once so generously donated to the Ovens Benevolent Asylum and Ovens District Hospital in his day of youth and prosperity? 'Poor John' died, old, starving, worn-out and separated from his loved ones." This paper is based primarily on an examination of articles from the late 19th to the early 20th century in two of the local newspapers of the North East district: The "Ovens & Murray Advertiser", and the "Ovens Register".


Allan O'NEIL

'Chinese merchants and workers in the Northern Territory'

This paper will examine the occupations and business interests of the Chinese residents in the Northern Territory, the extent of their entrepreneurial activities compared with those of the European business community and the attitudes towards the Chinese merchants and workers of the European community. The focus of the paper will be the Federation years 1880 to 1920. As very few Chinese people lived and worked south of Katherine during the Federation years the effective geographical limits will be the region comprising Darwin (Palmerston 1869-1911), Southport and the various mining areas principally in the Pine Creek region, although occasionally extending as far south as Katherine. The study will investigate the businesses and occupations of the Chinese community generally but will also deal with selected individuals in specific case studies.



'The influence of Chinese immigration on Australian citizenship '

This paper will look at how Chinese immigration to Australia in the second half of the 19th century was central to the evolution of citizenship in Australia. The paper will set out a definition of citizenship in Australia and in particular the difference between the legal notion of citizenship and the broader notion of membership of the Australian community. The paper will look at the historical influences on the legal framework of citizenship in Australia. It will argue that the lack of a reference to citizenship in the Australian Constitution has affected citizenship's legal development, and that one of the major historical influences on the omission of the term citizenship was Chinese immigration to Australia.


Pauline RULE

'The Chinese camps in Colonial Victoria: Their role as contact zones'

In the late 1860s there was a move to break up the various Chinese camps situated on the margins of towns with a gold field history. Concern had arisen among some groups in the colony about the attraction of the camps, especially on the Sabbath. Such concerns related to gambling, opium and the presence of European women. The campaign collapsed as the police across the colony reported back on the orderliness of the camps and their preference for keeping the Chinese together in one area. But the campaign highlighted the allure of the camps as a contact zone where inter-cultural encounters could take place. This paper aims to explore the interactions that took place in the camps which challenged the dominant society's boundaries between the races. It further aims to consider how in the words of Mary Louise Pratt the camps were a contact zone or 'space in which people once geographically and historically separated, came into contact with each other and to establish ongoing relations, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality and intractable conflict'.



'Australia's High Commissioner and the Chinese Republic'

This paper concerns the involvement in the 1912 Chinese Revolution of Edward Selby Little. Little was Australia's Trade Commissioner in the early 1920s. Western involvement in the peace talks has remained relatively unknown to history. Prior to the Revolution, the Manchu dynasty was torn with internal conflicts and infighting and the rebellion, that began with the uprising in Wuchang, was an opportunity for an Imperial official, Yuan Shih-k'ai, to lead the Imperial forces against the rebels with whom he was also dealing. Meanwhile, a new central government gathered at Nanking and contacted Yuan. All agreed that whoever could negotiate the abdication of the Manchus should have the nomination of Provisional President. But there was no consensus on a safe and neutral venue for the delicate negotiations. Little had lived in China since 1886 and was well acquainted with the leaders of both sides. He offered to put his Shanghai house at the disposal of the warring parties. After not a little drama, the Manchu delegate, H.E. Tang Shao-yi, and Dr Sun Yat-sen's representative, Dr Wu Ting-fang accepted his offer and the meeting proceeded. On February 12 1912, an edict of abdication was signed thus ending a monarchial system of 2000 years. Interestingly, that Little opened his house and used his good offices to facilitate the negotiation of this difficult agreement parallels the negotiations between Israel and Egypt in 1978 that were greatly facilitated by President Carter's provision of the safe venue of Camp David.


Professor CAI Shaoqing

'Analysing Chinese Secret Societies in Australia'

About 20 million Chinese have migrated overseas since the 19th century, most of them to work as coolies and labourers in mining, gold mining and panning, road construction, farming and animal husbandry in places like Southeast Asia, North American and Australia. As L. A. Millers has observed, "Wherever there are Chinese, there will be secret societies." This statement holds true for Australia. This paper expores the history of 'secret societies' in Australian history with special reference to the nineteenth century. It begins with a study of sources - including a detailed discussion of a valuable secret society text found in Ballarat - and moves on to consider the significance of secret society organisations for Australia's Chinese communities more generally.


SHEN Yuan-fang

'Australia through Chinese eyes - The Chinese perception of Australia at Federation'

The paper plans to bring out the Chinese perception of Australia at Federation by examining a group of Chinese writings produced by Chinese immigrants in Australia in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Specifically, this paper will look in some detail at such writings as Fu Ho's 'Celestial Correspondence' (1872), Cheok Hong Cheong and co's 'The Chinese Question in Australia 1878-78', Tam Sie's 'Memoirs of Tam Sie, 1875-1925', Taam Sze Puis My Life and Work (1925), and C. J. Pao's 'Australia Through Chinese Eyes' (1938). By investigating how the Chinese at Federation saw Australia, the paper aims to bring to light what, and under what circumstances, early Chinese immigrants made of themselves and their life in their writing.


Jerome SMALL

'Unions and anti-Chinese agitation on the Victorian goldfields'

In 1874, the Amalgamated Miners' Association became the first union in Victoria and probably in Australia to officially ban Chinese workers from membership. This move followed a riot in the mining town of Clunes in December 1873, when Chinese miners were used in an attempt to break a long strike. For many historians, these events have been seen as part of the working class agitation that supposedly led to 'white Australia'.

A close examination of these events, however, shows that the most vocal advocates of excluding Chinese from the miners' union were not actually miners themselves. Rather it was a coalition of interests, ranging from middle class figures through to mining capitalists and politicians, who led the anti-Chinese agitation in the newly forming unions. These interests worked to downplay issues of class. emphasising race as an issue that would not set working miners against their bosses.

A study of the geography of anti-Chinese agitation at this time is also of interest. Where the Chinese were most effectively segregated from the rest of the population (a legacy of the 'Chinese Protectorate' of the 1850s), it was easiest for workers to be led into uncritical support of the anti-Chinese push.



'A Celestial parade: The Chinese celebration of Australian nationhood, Melbourne, May 1901'

My proposed talk looks at the opening of the first Australian parliament in May 1901 and the unusual aspect of the participation of the small Melbourne Chinese community in the celebrations. The Chinese had little reason to be part of these, given the fact that the newly elected Barton government was brought to power with a "White Australia" platform as one of its initiatives. They built a commemorative arch and paraded through the streets as part of the festivities.The enthusiasm of the Melbourne Chinese community's involvement and equally the crowd's delight at the procession poses the question -Why was the Chinese community so eager to be involved in this public celebration and why were they so well received? Chinese processions were not new to the streets of Melbourne at the turn of the century. Despite what has been written about hostility towards the Chinese in Australia, their exotic displays and processions fascinated European people. It is where the Chinese publicly presented and attempted to popularise their community to "white Australia". This popularity was evident during these festivities. The Royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of York for the opening was symbolically significant for the new Australian nation. It was equally important for the small Chinese community living in Melbourne to want to be part of the celebrations.


Elizabeth TEATHER

'So you want to return to China after you die?'

Chinese from overseas whose ancestral roots are in the Pearl River Delta have contributed to the recent and ongoing transformation in landscapes of death in Guangzhou. Immaculately landscaped cemeteries, inspired by a combination of traditional Chinese and modern Western design, were opened in the city in the mid-1990s. Some are still in the process of development. There are, as a result, several alternatives to the Zhonghua Cemetery in the east of the city opened in the 1960s. Only Overseas Chinese are permitted coffin burial. Most graves in the new cemeteries contain the ashes of local citizens, and many such ashes have been removed from their previous (often illegal) locations to find at last a resting place in green and tranquil surroundings. The auspicious fengshui elements of the new cemeteries are used as a selling point in publicity brochures. A parallel development is the building of impressive columbaria. Altogether, these new facilities offer a range of choices for Guangzhou citizens for whom cremation is, increasingly, the only option at death. Overseas Chinese, too, have a wider choice should they wish to return after death, and their investment in the new cemeteries indicates that a number of them do so wish. This presentation will make copious use of slides taken in Guangzhou, Huadu, Nanhai and other locations in March 2000.



'"Bottling" an Australian medical tradition: Traditional Chinese Medicine in Australia ca l911'

How and where do we locate the practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) ? Is it a Chinese or Australian heritage? Or is it an Asian,Oriental or Celestial tradition? Locating answers to these questions involves searching for signs of local TCM practice in Australia. A suitable place to start this journey is within the confines of a former-warehouse-turned-museum in Melbourne's Chinatown precinct. In the storeroom of the Museum of Chinese Australian History, a tiny vintage medicine bottle is 'bottled-up' among a pile of museum artifacts. This tiny medicine bottle tells a very interesting story. Its shape, lid, label and left-over powder contents speaks of a heritage and tradition which we have forgotten; or chosen to forget. From its 'bottled-up' location in the museum, this paper will unravel the story of the 'bottling' of an Australian medical heritage and tradition and from these stories assemble the remnants of a marginalized medical practice.



'The tragic autobiography of a Chinese miner on the Central Victorian goldfields'

Jong Ah Siug's story starts with a life that he 'liked'. He described finding gold, mixing silver and copper in it to sell to the Europeans, smoking opium, visiting prostitutes and his interaction with other Chinese and Europeans. This all came to a sudden end after a dispute with some neighbours led to his admission in hospital, assault charges and ultimately being declared insane by an unfamiliar, unsympathetic legal system. He spent two years in an asylum learning to write English. He then wrote an account of these events in a mixture of English and pidgin English with both English and Cantonese grammar, in an attempt to exonerate himself. Yet again, the legal system did not care and he remained incarcerated for 33 years, dying in the Sunbury Asylum in 1900 aged 63. This talk will also cover the locating of his account, its translating and deciphering, following his map to find his original campsite and culminating in the publication of a book (in March 2000).


Zheng-Ting WANG

'Cultures in transition? Music and Australia's Chinese communities in the early twentieth century'

By the early 1900s, there were many Australian-born Chinese, many of them were educated in the Western school system. For those people it was easier to accept and appreciate Western music than Chinese music. However, Chinese immigrants tended to maintain their traditional ways. A complex mix of people within the Chinese community, and later within the general community, become more pronounced. Therefore, the types of music practiced by different Chinese groups in Victoria has been largely influenced by this complexity.


Michael WILLIAMS (proxy to speak)

'Legacy of First Federation Parliament'

In 1901, the year of Federation, the new Parliament passed the Immigration Restriction Act. This Act was in many ways the culmination of the White Australia Policy that the growing co-operation among the colonies had been developing. The Act continued in operation until the 1950s leaving behind an enormous amount of paperwork and administrative files. It is not accidental that the vast bulk of these files contain a great deal of information about Chinese residents in Australia from the end of the 19th century until the early 1950s. These files are a barely tapped resource for the researcher of Chinese Australian history on many levels. What is of particular interest about these files is that they reveal so much about the lives of those who so often go unrecorded by historians because they usually leave so few records. In these files the details of such people as market gardeners and labourers are carefully preserved along with those of merchants and wealthy businesspeople, as they went about a vital part of their lives, travelling to and from their families in China. This paper proposes to detail some of the uses this resource can be put to and to give example of some of the discoveries to date.



'A letter from China: the Chan brothers of Long Gong village, Zhongshan'

In researching the almost forgotten histories of individual Chinese families in Australia, descendants often had to rediscover 'the personal' as well as concentrating on collecting and recording local family data as a means of reclaiming a family's origins. Migration, isolation, the Anglo-Australian perspective in education, identity splitting, the loss of Chinese customs and the lost ability to communicate in Chinese; all significantly affect Australian descendants of Chinese forebears. The Que Woo family derived its name and ancestry from Chan Kwei Yu-he after he, as a teenager, entered Australia in 1880 and anglicised his name to Samuel Que Woo. His skills and knowledge were applied to a number of business ventures at Cumberland, Georgetown, Ingham and Innisfail, in Queensland and finally at Coonabarabran, NSW. With his Australian-born wife, Cissy Yet Foy, he set about having a family, feeding and maintaining them whilst trying to achieve economic success in his new country. Reclamation of the Que Woo family genealogy was blocked by secrets, experiences precipitated by need or distress as well as the emotional baggage gathered by way of the anti-Chinese social policies. Only after rediscovering and carefully reconstructing the Que Woo family history was it possible to attempt a reunification with any remaining family left in China, and to learn, with great surprise, that Sam Que Woo had a brother.


WU Qianlong

'Communication problems of the Chinese immigrants in Australia during and after the gold-rush'

Chinese immigrants began to arrive at the southeastern part of Australia as early as the 1830s, but the gold-rush in the 1850s had greatly increased the influx of Chinese immigrants from the coastal areas in Guangdong and Fujian. In the colony of Victoria in 1875, one in seven males was a Chinese. Although the Chinese were at first considered 'law-abiding, harmless and inoffensive', the presence of this largest non-white ethnic group led to agitation among the white gold miners and finally some racist legislation. How did all these happen? Besides the quaint customs and strange appearance and manners, moral issues and fear of competition, there was definitely lack of communication, which is seldom discussed in details by historians. This paper aims to study the communication problems of the Chinese immigrants during and after the gold-rush, focusing on the hindrance caused by language difference and how the language barrier was overcome. Research work will be carried out at two levels: one is here in Guangdong (Canton), to find out something about the education of those immigrants; the other is in Australia, to study how they encountered the whites face to face. The study will make use of reference books written by western and Chinese scholars in order to get a balanced view, archive correspondence and evidence in Chinese and possibly field trips to the home villages in Guangdong of some immigrants. The paper will comprise of three parts: 1. A brief review of historical statistics 2. Incidents and case study of communication problems and 3. Solving the myth about 'yellow agony'.


Xing Jianrong

(no abstract available)


Cheryle YIN-LO

'Sharing Chinese heritage and developing Chinese audiences for Australian museums'

One of the main challenges for Australia's major cultural institutions particularly museums is in attracting culturally diverse audiences. Whilst engagement has primarily been through one off events and public programs, Australian Chinese communities could be playing a greater role through increased networking and partnerships with the heritage and museum sector especially in the area of research and participation. What is the current state of visibility of the Australian Chinese community in museums - both as visitors but also as content for exhibitions? How we can access Chinese communities as participants, visitors and artists and increase their involvement in projects through sharing cultural material and knowledge and how critical is its impact on future generations? What is the relationship of contemporary arts practice by artists of Chinese background and heritage issues? All of these issues come into play in the way that exhibitions and cultural items are selected and presented to different audiences and how this shifts for different generations in the Chinese community in the way we perceive and interpret Chinese heritage. In this paper I will address key critical issues involving current changes in approaches and strategies to increase projects and initiatives from and for Chinese communities. Through the development of various projects it has increased the understanding of Chinese heritage and culture by the wider community. It also raises an important issue of their relevancy to attracting Chinese visitors to museums and in particular to museum visitors generally in the context of a broader understanding of Australian history and the issue of cultural representation.



'Tapping into sources for researching the history of Chinese communities in Australia 1880-1920'

Centring on sources relating to three local government areas in New South Wales (Hurstville, Rockdale and Kogarah), this paper would also serve as a guide to sources which could be found, with variations, in other states and territories of Australia. An appropriate selection of sources would be drawn from records relating to immigration; attitudes towards the Chinese; the cultural influence of the Chinese; Chinese people and population trends; occupations of the Chinese; buildings, land use and the Chinese; and pictorial sources. The usefulness of these sources would be emphasised. It is intended that this paper would be of particular interest to community and public historians, and encourage further research into the history of Chinese communities in the Federation Period (1880-1920).