Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

The life of William Ah Ket - Building bridges between East and West

Unit title:
The life of William Ah Ket - Building bridges between East and West

Year level:
Middle secondary

Key learning areas:
- Studies of society and environment
- English
- The arts

Curriculum emphasis:
From: Studies in Asia: A Statement for Australian Schools:
Likely implications of closer Asia-Australia relationships
- World contributions by the peoples of Asia

Two to three 50 minute lessons.

Students read the story of William Ah Ket, an Australian-born Chinese man who became a respected leader in the community in the early twentieth century. This story is used as the context for research, vocabulary development and creative tasks.

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.
- 'Taxes on Chinese Immigration to Australia, 1901 Immigration Restriction Act and the Dictation Test' a background article on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website that explains the reasons for and the practice of restricting the immigration of Chinese into Australia in the early 20th century. These were the discriminatory laws that William Ah Ket opposed.

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- the significant contribution to society made by William Ah Ket
- some other prominent individuals mentioned in Ah Ket's story
- evaluate the work of William Ah Ket and design an appropriate public memorial to him.

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.
- Dictionary (hard copy or online - e.g:
- Atlas
- Art/craft materials
- Local newspapers

1. Read the story:
Read 'William Ah Ket - Building Bridges between Occident and Orient in Australia, 1900-1936' on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website. Teachers may like to break class into small groups and allocate each group a person to investigate or a number of the words to define. Groups will then share their findings.

WORDS: Using a dictionary (hard copy or online) define the following words or terms in the context of the story: Occident, Orient, adroit, mandarin, matriculation, articles, forebears, Federation, discriminatory, agitate, alleviation, canny, fascism, ethnology.

PEOPLE: Use the links below to find out who the following people were and what they did: R.G. Menzies, John Williams, Confucius, Quong Tart, Cheok Hong Cheong, Dr. Sun Yat Sen.

- Richard Sliwa's fan website of John Williams
- 'R.G. Menzies' article part of 'Famous Australians' on the ABC Online website.
- Entry on 'Confucius' by Wu-Chi Liu, Ph.D. on the MSN Encarta website.
- Entry on 'Confucius' on website.
- Biographies of 'Quong Tart' and 'Dr. Sun Yat Sen' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website.
- Background on 'Cheok Hong Cheong' on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.

2. Group activity:
Divide the class into small groups. Summarise the main achievements/contributions of William Ah Ket. Imagine that your group has been commissioned to create a lasting public memorial to him. Think about the form this memorial should take (eg: statue, mural, piece of music, building, scholarship...) and where it should be located.

Sketch, compose or make a model of your memorial. This 'draft' memorial should be accompanied by a 'submission' to the people of the area where you wish to locate this memorial. The submission will outline the reasons that the memorial should be produced, why you have designed it in this way and why you have chosen to locate it in that area.

Each group will present its submission to the rest of the class.

3. A community leader in your local area
Choose someone from your area who is considered a community leader. Write a brief report about this person, considering questions such as:
- Is this person associated with a particular group in the community - eg: a particular ethnic, age or interest group?
- What has this person achieved for the community?
- How is this person's work acknowledged in the community?
- Sources of information may include your local council and local newspapers or other media.

Karen Dowling

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
- Background information - education/about.htm online dictionary -

Fan website of John Williams -

'Famous Australians' on the ABC Online website -

MSN Encarta website - website -

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