Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

The Changing Face of Little Bourke Street (Junior)

Unit title:
The changing face of Little Bourke Street (Junior)

Year level:
Junior secondary

Key learning areas:
Studies of society and environment

Curriculum emphases:
From: Studies in Asia: A Statement for Australian Schools:
- Developing concepts of Asia
- World contributions by the peoples of Asia

One to two 50-minute lessons (dependant on task chosen)

Chinatowns have developed in many countries around the world, including Australia in cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Some of these Chinatowns have histories that go back to the goldrush era, others have disappeared as the Chinese population shifted and declined. Students use the 'Melbourne Chinatown Streets Database 1900-1920' to complete an empathy exercise reflecting on the changing face of a small section of Little Bourke Street. As an extension activity students consider some of the important events which shaped the lives of the Chinese people living and working in Melbourne during the early 20th century.

Teacher background material:
The following links provide an introduction and overview of the topics covered in this unit:
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- A knowledge and familiarity with the Immigration Restriction Act and its impact on non-whites. See the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website or use the 'Discovering Democracy: Pathways to Federation: 5. Keeping Australia White' for ideas and material on how to explain the context of this period.
- Golden Threads website provides an insight into lives of Chinese people in rural NSW.
- For an understanding of names of Chinese people in the history record. See Why a Chinese person may have more than one name on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- Become familiar with the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website, particularly the 'Stories' and the 'Melbourne Chinatown Streets Database 1900-1920'.

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- be able to search a database
- compare and analyse primary sources
- extend empathetic skills relating to Chinese people in the early 20th century
- develop writing/reporting skills
- develop an understanding of the events which shaped the lives of Chinese individuals in Australia

Materials required:
- Computer/s with access to the internet. Alternatively could use a cached version of the site, paste the database information into a spreadsheet program such as Excel or print relevant pages and copy onto overheads or handouts.

1. Introduction
Engage a short discussion about Chinatowns including comment from those students who have been there. Ask students to imagine how this street has changed over the years and to make some guesses about what the street looked like, what work took place, what types of shops and people were there etc.

2. Explain the task to students
Students will be using a database to gather evidence on what type of street Little Bourke Street was at the turn of the century and they will use this information to write an historically based story/script. Students could complete this task individually or in a group of between 2 - 3 people using 'The changing face of Little Bourke Street' handout.

3. Have students log on to chinatown.htm

4. First students select 'Browse database' so they can view the type of information included in the database. Ask them to look at a section of the database and at random, select a street number.

5. With the street number in mind, use the 'back' button to return to the main database page. Select 'Search database'.

6. Using the search items, have students type in the street number (first box), then type 'Little Bourke Street' in the street name (next box) and finally 'sort by' year and click 'search' button. View the results of a search for '220 Little Bourke Street'.

A further search is done using one of the people or businesses found in the street search. In this case 'Hung Fong' is entered in the 'Individual Business name' box and then sorted by year. View the results of a search for 'Hung Fong'.

When students locate a street number where a person or business is listed for at least 10 years, this can be the prime focus of their story. Then select another number and search. For example, 222 Little Bourke Street sorted by year.

As students experiment with the database they may find that businesses in the street moved to a different address over the period or that the spelling of the business or person's name varied. Encourage students to speculate why this occurred.

Many smaller businesses moved as larger businesses in the 'bigger' adjacent street expanded. Some may also have moved for financial reasons. Finally the Little Bourke Street area was a run down district neglected by landlords, businesses and residents may have moved to improved premises. For a discussion on why Chinese names may vary see 'Why a Chinese person may have more than one name' on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.

6. With the results of their searches, students can then begin their story, imagining they are either the shop-keeper, child of the shop-keeper or worker at this shop and they write of the comings and goings in the street, the changes of business, the new owners and their families, the anguish at the loss of a friend who leaves the shop, the new shops and their unusual/interesting wares, etc.

The writing could be in the form of:
- a diary with an irregular writer who only writes when a main event occurs,
- a script,
- a newspaper/magazine feature article,
- a collection of documents found in the building in 2020

OR students could perform a play and conduct the initial research in a group of two or three.

Extension activities:
1. Debate:
Read document 1251 in the Digitised Historic Documents database on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website and outline the arguments Cheok Hong Cheong presents in his letter to the editor. Using the related links found when the 'Background' button on the document is clicked conduct a debate where the arguments about this legislation are discussed.

2. Excursion:
Organise an excursion to Chinatown and the Chinese Museum.

Agatha Fedrizzi

Download 'The changing face of Little Bourke Street' handout (39kb word document).

Summary of websites used in this lesson:
Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website - http
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia - education/history.htm
- Why a Chinese person may have more than one name - education/names.htm
- Stories - stories.htm
- Melbourne Chinatown Streets Database 1900-1920 - chinatown.htm
- Digitised Historic Documents database - docs_home.htm

'Harvest of Endurance Scroll' on the National Museum of Australia website -

'Discovering Democracy: Pathways to Federation: 5. Keeping Australia White' on the ABC website -

Golden Threads website -