Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

A Workers' Paradise? The Chinese community and their experience of work in Australia.


Unit title:
A Workers' Paradise? The Chinese community and their experience of work in Australia.

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

Duration:
Two to three 50-minute lessons

Description:
Students look at the working lives of Chinese-Australians at the turn of the 20th century, the different areas in which they worked and their successes. This is followed by an examination of the impact of the Australian Commonwealth Government's approach to work practices and treatment of non-whites through legislation.

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.

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- compare and analyse primary sources
- draw conclusions based on their observations and analyses
- develop a knowledge of the Immigration Restriction Act and the implications for Chinese-Australians
- develop an appreciation of the broader contribution of Chinese-Australians to Australia.

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.

Procedure:
1. Introduction
What is a 'worker's paradise'? In order to have students consider this, place the terms on the board and have students brainstorm these concepts.

After initial feedback, present students with the documents (handout 1) and then renew the question.

Reset the question asking students to define 'worker' and ask them to consider who would have been regarded as a worker, and why. This should help make the links for them between the overtly white consideration and the following part of the unit which focuses on how Chinese-Australians experienced the workplace in Australia.

Ask students if they know anything about the Immigration Restriction Act (or White Australian Policy).

2. Establishing a clear knowledge of the Immigration Restriction Act and its effect on Chinese-Australians.
Separate class into research groups. The size of each group should be regulated by the number of questions (and the difficulty of questions) related to the particular site. The 'Harvest of Endurance' site information is quite straightforward and easily accessible for most readers. Groups should read the information on the sites below:
- 'Abolition of the "White Australia" Policy' fact sheet on the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs website.
- 'Taxes on Chinese Immigration to Australia, 1901 Immigration Restriction Act and the Dictation Test' background on Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- 'Federation and discrimination' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website. (easy reading and quite brief)
- 'Federation and the Immigration Restriction Act 1901' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website.
- 'Chinese protests against discrimination at the turn of the century' background information on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.

3. Task
Distribute handout 2. Under each of the websites are specific questions and directions for the group.

4. Discussion and review
A brief round up of the information found by each research group followed by a discussion asking students to
- describe what the Immigration Restriction Act involved, (including the dictation test, its rationale [the reasons for it], how long it was active, and
- consider how this legislation would have affected the lives of Chinese-Australians.
- consider how the Chinese community responded to these changes.

5. Looking at the work and broader contributions of Chinese-Australians in Australia during the early 1900s.
Dependent on the class, this following task could form the basis of group or individual research. Again students will have to access the web address and consider the documents presented. As above, each address is accompanied by research questions listed in Handout 3.

- 'Early Chinese in Western Australia' by Anne Atkinson on the Chung Wah Association (WA) website.
- 'History of Chung Wah Association, Part One: 1909 - 1985' by Anne Atkinson and Yee Kee Yong on the Chung Wah Association (WA) website.
- Sample of 'A Chinese reformer at the birth of a nation: Liang Qichao and the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation' exhibition on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- 'furniture making' background information on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- Information on 'work' on Golden Threads online exhibition.
- Range of 'Stories' on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.*

*Please note that this link has many choices. You may wish to limit students choices or develop a number of extra groups.

6. Drawing the information together.
Each group will produce a poster (on butcher's paper with little regard to pretty presentation, but focused on presenting information legibly and clearly - encourage the use of different colour, headings, underlining etc to enable greater accessibility of the information for other students) and these will be pinned around the room. The class will have to walk around the classroom stopping at each poster to read information and finalise their answers to:

- What were the contributions of Chinese-Australians?
- What work were they involved in?
- How did they combat the discrimination they experienced?
- Of the information you considered, which work, contribution or action stands out as the most significant (important)? Provide reasons for your answer.

7. Summation of activity and review.
A discussion covering the following points may be a useful way to draw the unit's elements together.

- Was Australia a working man's paradise for Chinese-Australians?
- What problems did they experience?
- Did this prevent their ability to make contributions to the community? Explain.
- Each student will have to be able to explain at least one point or reason why it was or wasn't. (A good idea to start with the weakest, or most quiet student so their answer will not be already presented by others - a good idea to warn them first!)

Extension activities:
1. Discussion
Hold a discussion on the Immigration Restriction Act and the reasons for its creation.
- Should the Immigration Restriction Act be re-enacted? Why? Why not?
- What does this legislation tell us about the attitudes and values of the Commonwealth government during this period?

2. Essay
Write an essay on "Was Australia a working man's paradise for Chinese-Australians?" where students must include and analyse the evidence they encountered in the tasks above.

3. Mural
Paint a mural depicting the contributions of Chinese-Australians and their battle against discrimination.

4. Debate
Hold a debate - "Australia is and always has been a racist country".

Consider the Woomera detention centre issue - could this be seen as a continuation of the Immigration Restriction Act? All responses would need to be supported with evidence. Use The Australian newspaper website to obtain access to letters to the editor and associated articles.

Define the difference between refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Look at the reasons for migration to Australia and try to establish whether most Australian arrivals since 1788 were refugees, asylum seekers or migrants.

Author:
Agatha Fedrizzi

Handouts:
Download Handout 1 'A worker's paradise? A document study' (42kb word document).

Download Handout 2 'Research Activity: Getting to know the Immigration Restriction Act 1901' (46kb word document).

Download Handout 3 'The work of Chinese-Australians' (48kb 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
- Stories - stories.htm
- Historical backgrounds - education/about.htm
- 'A Chinese reformer at the birth of a nation: Liang Qichao and the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation' exhibition - exhibition.htm

'Harvest of Endurance Scroll' on the National Museum of Australia website - http://www.nma.gov.au/harvest/index.htm

ABC website - http://www.abc.net.au

Golden Threads website - http://amol.org.au/goldenthreads

Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs website - http://www.immi.gov.au

Chung Wah Association (WA) website - http://www.nw.com.au/~ysyow/chungwah

The Australian newspaper website - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au