Degree Name

Master of Arts - Research


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


This thesis sheds new light on Chinese people in Australia's past by examining Chinese in the town of Wollongong, on the New South Wales South Coast, between 1901 and 1939. Although the historiography of Chinese people in Australia has advanced considerably over the last few years, more local-level histories are needed to understand their diverse experiences. There are several areas that this thesis explores: early Chinese immigrants to Wollongong; Chinese agriculture; business, community life; and the engagement of local Chinese with government and the law. Drawing on a range of sources including English and Chinese-language newspapers, Commonwealth, State and local government records, church records and oral histories, I have uncovered an unexpectedly rich Chinese history in a town better known for being predominantly ‘white’. Chinese experiences in Wollongong were distinct in many respects, possibly due to the small size of the Chinese population. Chinese people were often successful, and there is remarkably little evidence of any sustained attack on their livelihoods, as was seen in other parts of ‘White Australia’. The sheer volume of new information uncovered shows that at some point after 1939 there was a ‘whitewashing’ of the past, either deliberate or accidental, and this has broader implications for local history around Australia.