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Chinese fathers and their Australian families return to China, 1902 to 1940


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Slides from presentation by Dr Kate Bagnall at the Visible Immigrants Seven conference, Flinders University/Migration Museum, Adelaide, Australia on 14 December 2012.

From as early as the late 1850s, Chinese migrant fathers began taking their Australian families to China. Over the eighty years or so that followed, hundreds of young Australians—some full Chinese, some part Chinese and some of full European descent—accompanied their Chinese fathers and step fathers to Hong Kong and southern China, particularly to the Pearl River Delta counties in Guangdong province. For some men, these return journeys signalled the end of an Australian sojourn, while for others it was but a temporary return to their homeland—an opportunity to take care of business or family matters, to educate children, or to visit with friends and relatives before returning ‘home’ once again to Australia.

This paper drew on records created in the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act—legislation which limited the mobility of Chinese people in and out of Australia—to explore this history of geographical mobility in Chinese Australian families. While records of travel in the colonial period are limited, after the introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901 officials kept careful track of Chinese leaving Australia to ensure that those who returned had the right to do so. The detailed administrative records created by these officials provide information that can be used to investigate both the motivations and mechanisms of travel by Chinese men and their Australian families in the early White Australia period. Why did Chinese fathers take their Australian children with them to China? Where did they travel to? How did they get there? How long did they spend overseas? What did they do there? And, finally, how did they negotiate their personal and familial mobility within the restrictions imposed by White Australia?

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Chinese fathers and their Australian families return to China, 1902 to 1940

  1. 1. Chinese fathers and theirAustralian families return to China,1902–1940Kate Bagnallwww.katebagnall.comVisible Immigrants Seven‘On the wing’: Mobility before and after emigration to Australia14–15 December 2012Flinders University in association with the Migration Museum, Adelaide
  2. 2. William Flood Sam78-year-old gardener WilliamFlood Sam, 1915NAA: SP42/1, C1915/4058
  3. 3. A mobile migrantwho put down rootsArrived in NSW in 1860, aged 23Lived at: Tambaroora (near Hill End) 3 years Wagga Wagga 18 years Marsden 12 years Barmedman / Wyalong 22 yearsWorked as: miner cook labourer grocer gardenerLived in NSW for 55 yearsNAA: SP42/1, C1915/4058
  4. 4. Part of theWest WyalongcommunityWilliam Flood Sam wasdescribed as ‘a goodhardworking sober man’and ‘a man of first-classcharacter’.His wife, Jane Sam, was asaid to be a ‘highlyesteemed resident’ of thedistrict.NAA: SP42/1, C1915/4058West Wyalong Advocate,19 October 1944Australian Town and CountryJournal, 1 January 1898
  5. 5. ‘That famousfighting family’Four of the eight sons ofWilliam and Jane Flood Samwent to fight in World War I.This image shows the seveneldest boys.In all Jane Sam gave birth to16 children over 27 years.Wyalong Advocate, 24 June 1919Undated newspaper clipping, c. 1915
  6. 6. Percy Flood SamFourteen-year-old Percy FloodSam before his departure forChina, 1915NAA: SP42/1, C1915/4032
  7. 7. PaperworkPercy’s handprint andphotograph were taken andkept on file so he could beidentified on returning toAustralia.William was granted aCertificate Exempting fromDictation Test.NAA: SP42/1, C1915/4032NAA: ST84/1, 1915/179/81-90
  8. 8. ImmigrationRestriction Act1901‘An Act to place certainrestrictions on Immigrationand to provide for the removalfrom the Commonwealth ofprohibited Immigrants.’NAA: A1559, 1901/
  9. 9. 40,000 non-Europeans, mainly Chinese, wereresident in Australia in 1901 … The frequency oftheir travel in and out of the country stimulatedthe administration to develop elaborateprocesses to monitor their movement. In theabsence of a definition of citizenship, or of adefinition of migration in legislative form, theseAustralians, many of whom were British subjectsby birth or naturalisation, were of special interestin the governance of the boundaries of migrationand domestic exclusionary policies.Paul Jones, Alien Acts: The White Australia Policy, 1901 to 1939, p. 20
  10. 10. 50,000 CEDTs15,000 case files90 shelf metres of recordsInvisible Australians: ‘The real face of White Australia’
  11. 11. Chinese men travelling from Sydney in 1903Sample of 95 men granted Certificates of Domicile in NSW in 1903.Age 22 to 61 years old Most in their 30s and 40sWhen did they arrive in Australia? Earliest 1858, latest 1900 Most arrived in the 1880sOccupation bookkeeper, scholar, missionary, cook, laundry proprietor, newspaper proprietor, clerk Cabinetmaker (6) Merchant (8) Storekeeper (17) Gardener (51)Family 70 had no family (given their ages, likely that some would have married on return to China) 18 had wives and families in China 5 had wives and families in NSW (3 white, 1 NSW-born Anglo-Chinese, 1NSW-born Chinese) 2 had just children with them in NSW (1 boy was accompanying his father to China)NAA: ST84/1, Chinese with certificates numbered between 03/1 and 03/110
  12. 12. Visits to China were occasions to:  marry  pay respects to elders and ancestors  see wives and children  enhance the family status by displays of material and financial wealth gained by work overseas  organise the education of children  seek traditional cures for ailments  spend time in a world where language and customs were familiar.Janis Wilton, Golden Threads: The Chinese in Regional NSW 1850–1950, p. 111.
  13. 13. Tung Wah Times, 17 February 1923Eastern & Australian Steamship Company’s Illustrated Handbookto the East, 1904, p. xvii
  14. 14. South China coast from the Pearl River Delta to AmoyMost Chinese in Australia came from the Pearl River Delta region, south of Canton and inland from Hong Kong.
  15. 15. Gan familyNAA: B13, 1933/22224Tart family in Hong KongTart McEvoy papers, Society of AustralianGenealogists 6/16/4Ah Yin familyNAA: SP42/1, C1916/7308 PART 1
  16. 16. Holidays andvisiting family
  17. 17. Hoe familyJohn Hoe and his NSW-born wifeMary took their two children, agedfour and one, to China in 1905.The stated purpose of the trip wasbusiness, and to introduce Mary andthe children to John Hoe’s mother andfriends.John Hoe returned to Sydney in 1906,Mary and their son returned in 1909.There is nothing on record to showwhether the daughter, Jessie, everreturned to Australia.NAA: ST84/1, 1905/331-340NAA: SP42/1, B1905/1863
  18. 18. To provide care for‘motherless’ children
  19. 19. William andCharles Lumb LiuThis photo was taken in about 1900 beforethe boys were sent to China by their fatherto live with his extended family.Their mother had been institutionalised.Their younger sister was taken into statecare and was later adopted by a Chinesefamily in NSW.The elder boy, William, returned fromChina eight years later. Charles also laterreturned.Reproduced in Neville Meaney (ed.), Under NewHeavens: Cultural Transmission and the Making ofAustralia
  20. 20. To provide care for adopted children
  21. 21. Frederick Wong YongBorn in Glen Innes, NSW, in 1897 to awhite mother and Chinese father.Adopted by Yau Kong, a merchant andcommission agent who had been inAustralia since 1875.Lived with Yau Kong at ChineseFreemason’s Hall in Sydney.Went to China at age 8 in 1905. Norecord of his return.NAA: SP42/1, B1905/1996; B1905/1997NAA: ST84/1, 1905/331-340; 1905/341-350
  22. 22. Chinese education and upbringing
  23. 23. Charles AllenBorn in Sydney in 1896 and raised by hiswhite mother.Taken to China by his Chinese father in1909, aged 13.His father returned to Australia andCharles remained overseas with relativesuntil 1915.While away he learnt to speak what hecalled ‘China talk’, but he was veryhomesick and unhappy in China.NAA: SP42/1, C1922/4449NAA: ST84/1, 1909/22/41-50
  24. 24. Permanent return to China
  25. 25. Alfred Ernest Ablong, born in Waterloo in 1886.Ablong family Married a Hong Kong English woman in 1915 and had 11In 1902, John Ablong and his children.Anglo-Chinese wife Emmatook their family of six Sydney- Was killed during the Japanese occupation of Hongborn children to Hong Kong to Kong in World War and Emma’s marriage fellapart, but the family remainedin Hong Kong.The children grew up andwere married there.Some of the family returned to Emma Ablong nee Ah Kin,live in Australia after the born in 1865 on the Delegate1950s. Diggings.NAA: SP42/1, 1914/64Barbara Moore, Eurasian Roots
  26. 26. Returning to Australia as ‘immigrants’
  27. 27. Ruby Ping Fong,Mrs George CuminesBorn in Sydney in July 1912.Returned to China with her motherin 1913.Her father died soon after in NSWand she remained in China.Returned to Sydney in 1930, aged 18,married to Sydney resident GeorgeCumines.Had to pay a bond until she could beidentified and her stay was approvedby the minister.NAA: SP42/1, C1930/1281
  28. 28. Ongoing connections
  29. 29. Ernest Sung Yee Went to China with his father and younger brother in 1909. Returned to Australia in 1921. Made return trips to China in the 1920s and 30s. Did not speak English and his wife and children remained in China. NAA: ST84/1, 1909/20/21-30 NAA: J2483, 365/48 NAA: J2483, 496/86
  30. 30.