Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Participation in civic life

Unit title:
Participation in civic life

Year level:
Middle secondary

Key learning areas:
Studies of society and environment

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

Two - three 50 minute lessons

Students investigate the political activism of Chinese in Australia - from the protests against discrimination in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the participation of Chinese Australians in all levels of government in recent years.

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.
- See the Discovering Democracy Kit - Middle Secondary Units - 'Getting Things Done'. Note: Discovering Democracy Kit should be in every school in Australia for further information see the Discovering Democracy website.

Student outcomes:
Students will be able to:
- identify issues from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that provoked political action by Chinese Australians (ie: understand the motivation behind the political activism
- evaluate the effectiveness of this political activism
- describe the extent of participation by Chinese Australians in political life today.

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: Making your political voice heard.
Class discussion and/or small group work. (For group work, give each group a scenario to discuss. Groups share their findings in a report-back session) Teacher suggests a number of scenarios to students where a decision/rule/law has caused some discontent.

Begin with a home-based scenario (eg: you are banned from watching television for a month, no people from your school are allowed to visit you at home).

Next, consider a school-based scenario (eg: year 9 students are not to use the canteen at lunchtimes, all school computers are out of bounds to students), then a local community scenario.

Move on to look at a state, national and international scenario (choose something topical and of interest to the students).
For each scenario, consider the following:
- What can the discontented people do about this decision/rule/law?
(eg: ignore rule, break law, talk to someone in authority about the concerns, protest, write letters, vote, stand for election yourself, join a political party, alert the media, violent actions, start a petition, go on strike etc.)
- Encourage students to be creative in their ideas. Consider the likely effectiveness, practicality, morality and legality of various strategies. What limitations may there be on people's ability to do something about a perceived problem?
(eg: language barrier, too young to vote, unable to get access to those in authority, illiterate etc.)

2. Political activism of Chinese in Australia - the past
Minority groups sometimes find that they are being less favourably treated and wish to do something about it. Chinese Australians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had this problem. Allocate each student (or group of students) a selection of the documents listed below.

Draw up a list or table to summarise what you have learned, using the following headings:
- Issue of concern.
- Who was affected / involved?
- What action was taken?
- What was the result?
- What would /could you do if this issue affected you today?

Historical background information from the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website:
- Taxes on Chinese Immigration to Australia, 1901 Immigration Restriction Act and the Dictation Test
- Chinese protests against discrimination at the turn of the century
- Cheong, Cheok Hong (1851-1928)

Information on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website:
- Anti-Chinese violence
- Federation and discrimination

Historical documents from the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website:
- Document 58: Chinese storekeepers in Darwin protest over accusations of opium trafficking, 1907
- Document 309: Petition by Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Cheong, Louis Ah Mouy and 44 others presented to the Chinese Commissioners who in turn presented it to the Victorian premier
- Document 1243: Correspondence between Cheok Hong Cheong and the Premier of Victoria’s office regarding Chinese on board the ship Afghan.
- 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 1251: Cheok Hong Cheong’s letter to the editor of the Argus regarding the Factories and Shops Amendment Act, 1904
- Document 1253: Shi Geen asks that all be treated equitably under the Factories and Shops Act, 1907
- Document 1626: Petition regarding Chinese immigration from Y.S.W. Way Lee, on behalf of the Chinese in South Australia to the South Australian parliament

Students to present findings to the class.

3. Political activism of Chinese in Australia - today
Investigate your local area to see if there is anyone of Chinese origin who is active in political life eg: a community leader, local councillor or a member of state or federal parliament. If possible, you may like to write to this person or interview him or her. Try to find out their motivations.
- Why did they became politically active?
- Do they feel as if they are working on behalf of the Chinese community or the general community - or both?
- Are there any issues over which you have taken political action?

The following links may help:
John So (Lord Mayor of Melbourne)
- 'Personal statement', Australian Electoral Commission website

Alec Fong Lim (former Lord Mayor of Darwin)
- 'Alec Fong Lim' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website

Chan, Henry, 'From Quong Tarts to Victor Changs: Being Chinese in Australia in the Twentieth Century' seminar paper which discusses the Chinese contribution to Australia on the Centre for the Study of the Chinese Southern Diaspora (CSCSD) website.

Giese, Diana 'Post-war Chinese Australians Oral History Project' discusses her involvement in the Post-war Chinese Australians Oral History project including her interviews with prominent Chinese Australians on the National Library of Australian website.

The Parliament at Work website allows you to search for Members of Parliament in all Australian parliaments. Click on "Search", then select the appropriate parliament from the 'Parliamentarians' list.

Below is a list of people with Chinese heritage who are or have been involved in Australian politics:
- Wellington Lee (Councillor, City of Melbourne)
- Hong Lim (Legislative Assembly Victoria, Australian Labor Party)
- Dr Richard S H Lim (Legislative Assembly Northern Territory, Country Library Party)
- Senator Bill O'Chee (Federal, National Party)
- Dr Bernice Pfitzner-Tu Swee Lian (Legislative Council South Australia, Liberal Party)
- Helen Wai-Har Sham-Ho (Legislative Council New South Wales, independent)
- Senator Tsebin Tchen (Federal, Liberal Party)
- Henry Shui-Lung Tsang (Deputy Mayor Sydney, Legislative Council NSW, Australian Labor Party)
- David Wang - (Councillor City of Melbourne)

Students to present their findings to the class.

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
- Historical backgrounds - education/about.htm

- Digitised Historic Documents database - docs_home.htm

Discovering Democracy website -

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

Australian Electoral Commission website -

Centre for the Study of the Chinese Southern Diaspora (CSCSD) website -

National Library of Australian website -

Parliament at Work website -