Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Chinese communities, Federation and the early Commonwealth


Unit title:
Chinese communities, Federation and the early Commonwealth

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:
In 1901 Chinese communities around Australia held processions and built archways to celebrate Australia's federation. At the same time the soon to be federated Colonial governments were developing the 'White Australia Policy'. Students contrast these two developments and explore the impact of the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act on Chinese Australian people.

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.
- Become familiar with the following documents contained in the 'Digitised historic documents' database on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website
Document 1239: Argus report on the Chinese procession at the opening of the first Federal Parliament
Document 1240: Mei Quong Tart presents an address to the Duke of York
Document 1246: Chinese merchants in Sydney complain about the imposition of the old Aliens Restriction Act and the new Immigration Restriction Act, 1901
Document 1247: Ping Nam, president of the Chinese Merchants’ Society, objects to idea of requiring all Chinese to carry passports
Document 1248: Ping Nam responds to the government’s position on the Mrs Poon Gooey
Document 1249: Reverend W.J. Eddy, secretary of the Council of Churches for Victoria, supports Mrs Poon Gooey
Document 1253: Shi Geen asks that all be treated equitably under the Factories and Shops Act, 1907
Document 1589: Example of material held in the Boarding Branch Circulars detailing how the Dictation Test should be applied
Document 1621: Description of the 1901 Chinese federation procession held in Melbourne
Document 1623: Copy of letter from Quong Tart to Prime Minister Edmund Barton regarding the Immigration Restriction Act and NSW poll tax on Chinese
Document 1633: Immigration Restriction Act 1901

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- learn to search and use a database
- compare and analyse primary sources
- develop an awareness of the nature and extent of the Chinese community's involvement in the Federation celebrations.
- develop their knowledge of late 19th and early 20th century attitudes towards non-Europeans
- Consider the Immigration Restriction Act, 1901
- Develop an awareness of the challenges faced by the Chinese community in the early federation years

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
A range of documents are investigated through the exploration of the four themes below:

Celebration of Federation
- Document 1239: Argus report on the Chinese procession at the opening of the first Federal Parliament
- Document 1621: Description of the 1901 Chinese federation procession held in Melbourne
- Document 1240: Mei Quong Tart presents an address to the Duke of York

Operation of the Immigration Restriction Act
- Document 1589: Example of material held in the Boarding Branch Circulars detailing how the Dictation Test should be applied
- Document 1623: Copy of letter from Quong Tart to Prime Minister Edmund Barton regarding the Immigration Restriction Act and NSW poll tax on Chinese
- Document 1633: Immigration Restriction Act 1901

Social Impact of the Immigration Restriction Act
- Document 1248: Ping Nam responds to the government’s position on the Mrs Poon Gooey
- Document 1249: Reverend W.J. Eddy, secretary of the Council of Churches for Victoria, supports Mrs Poon Gooey
- Document 1247: Ping Nam, president of the Chinese Merchants’ Society, objects to idea of requiring all Chinese to carry passports

Economic Impact of the Immigration Restriction Act
- Document 1246: Chinese merchants in Sydney complain about the imposition of the old Aliens Restriction Act and the new Immigration Restriction Act, 1901
- Document 1253: Shi Geen asks that all be treated equitably under the Factories and Shops Act, 1907

2. Class discussion
Use documents 1239 and 1621 in a class discussion. Conduct a class reading of these two newspaper accounts or use selected excerpts (students may not find them very 'reader friendly'). Address the following questions about the approaches taken by the writers concerned to the class. Encourage students to find examples in the text to support their responses.
- How is the Chinese contribution to the federation celebrations viewed by the writers?
- To what extent are they impressed by the spectacle?
- Do they show particular attitudes towards the Chinese?

Document 1240 is essentially a list of the organisations which prepared such addresses, but some aspects could be discussed by students.
- How do they think the list has been arranged?
- Where do the 'Chinese residents of New South Wales' appear on the list?
- What are some of the unusual placements ahead of the 'Chinese residents'?

3. Group discussions
Divide the class into groups, depending on class size, to examine the remaining three themes.
- What are these documents about?
- Why have your documents been grouped under that heading?
- What concerns for members of the Chinese community did they raise?
- What do these documents indicate about government policy in the early 1900s?

Each group should report back to the whole class. Draw a table on the board summarising similarities and differences in responses to the questions.

3. Homework
Ask students to write an individual piece of writing discussing: 'A new century, a new nation: Where did the Chinese community fit into this?'

Extension activities:
1. Further discussion
Read the accounts in 'Establishing the Commonwealth - Events: The First federation Parade' on the ABC website which describes the Federation parade in Sydney. Are any Chinese or other non-Europeans included in the audience? Discuss this record of the events, and compare the attitudes shown with the documents you have been studying.

Author:
Brendan Meehan

Summary of websites used in this lesson:
Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website - http
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia - education/history.htm
- Digitised Historic Documents database- docs_home.htm

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