Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

The faces and lives in Little Bourke Street (Middle)

Unit title:
The faces and lives in Little Bourke Street (Middle)

Year level:
Middle 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

Three to four 50-minute lessons.

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 Students use the 'Melbourne Chinatown Streets Database 1900-1920' database, 'Digitised Historical Documents Database' and the 'Federation stories' on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation site to complete an empathy/research exercise reflecting on the lives of those working in a small section of Little Bourke Street. Students consider some of the important events that 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.
- 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. It would be useful to either tell students of the issues raised in this article or tell them as the need arises.
- Become familiar with the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website, particularly the 'Stories' section.
- Perhaps peruse 'The changing face of Little Bourke Street (Junior)' lesson plan on this website for a means of becoming familiar with the search engine and databases on the Melbourne Chinatown Streets database.
- Information on 'Melbourne's Chinatown' in the background material provided on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- Be able to search a database
- Compare data from other sources and draw conclusions.
- Extend empathetic skills relating to the Chinese in the early 20th century
- Develop writing/reporting skills
- Analyse primary source materials
- Develop an understanding of events which shaped the lives of Chinese individuals

Materials required:
Computer/s with internet access. Alternatively could use a cached version of the site or print the relevant pages and copy onto overheads or handouts.

1. Introduction.
In order to help create the notion of testing the bases of knowledge, ask students to consider and answer the following:
- Describe the lives of those working and living in Chinatown in the early 1900s.
- What problems would they have encountered?
- What evidence would you look for to help you answer these questions with more certainty?
- How would this street have changed over the years? Make some guesses about what the street looked like, what work took place, what types of shops and people were there etc…
- What evidence, knowledge, proof do you have that helped you answer these questions?

2. Explain the task
Then explain that 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 that they will use the Federation stories to select the life of a person who lived there. Using other historical digitised documents students will present an oral presentation to help others imagine what life could have been like for these individuals. Students will then listen and take notes on the other presentations, and at the end, review their initial hypotheses/beliefs. Students will need to complete the research aspects of this task in a group of between 4-5 people.

3. Either allocate or have students select one of the following Federation stories at stories.htm.
- Leong Har: Successful Merchant (about a merchant with the firm Hoong Cheong at 137 and 141 Little Bourke Street)
- Mrs Lup Mun: A Valued Member of the Community (about a Chinese herbalist with the firm Suey Gee Chong in Celestial Avenue)
- Mrs Tong and Her Family: A Difficult Time to Raise a Family (about a family living in Lacey Place).

Allow time for students to read the story and all links or provide a photocopy to read for homework.

4. Students log on to chinatown.htm and search for their Federation story character or business and build up their information. They will need to note any important evidence they found and explain why they feel it is important and what it shows.

5. Students prepare a brief presentation to the class explaining/commenting on the following key points:
- experience of Chinese Australian businesses/workers
- specific personal hurdles/challenges
- issues for comment/concern/interest.
- areas which need clarification

6. After the presentations, students will need to add to their initial notes from the introduction to the lesson.

7. After points of clarification are explored, students complete a reflection explaining how Chinese-Australians' lives were effected by the Immigration Restriction Act, and if this was the only thing that made their lives difficult. They must list evidence to support their answer. Their answer could be completed in the one of the following forms:
- a table (see below)

Effect Evidence Comment

- a short essay
- a concept map (with evidence provided in red for each effect)
- a collage of words, pictures, evidence

8. Finally a short verbal review discussing how their ideas changed, were challenged or remained the same as a result of the task.

Extension activities:
1. Role-play
Complete a role-play (or write and perform a short play) based on the characters the students researched. Students will need to think about the characters. They need to try to imagine what they may have thought, felt etc. A mini-lesson from an interested drama teacher may be of use here.

2. 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.

3. Excursion
Organise an excursion to a Chinatown and/or a Chinese Museum.

Agatha Fedrizzi

Download 'Early 20th century Australia: The faces and lives in Little Bourke Street' handout (41kb 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
- 'The changing face of Little Bourke Street (Junior)' lesson plan - education/lessons/lessonA01.htm
- Background information - education/about.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 -

Golden Threads website -