Chinese Women in Prostitution in the Courts of 1880s Darwin



Publication Details

Martinez, J. (2019). Chinese Women in Prostitution in the Courts of 1880s Darwin. Northern Territory historical studies, (30), 28-42.


One little known aspect of Northern Territory history is the immigration of a small number of Chinese women who worked as prostitutes in Darwin's Chinatown in the 1880s.2 Their presence is referred to in passing by Police Inspector Paul Foelsche in his 1888 report. He listed the various businesses in Chinatown including green-grocers, carpenters, shoe­makers, laundries, tailors, gardens, gambling houses and '7 Chinese brothels occupied by 34 prostitutes' as well as '5 Japanese brothels occupied by 24 prostitutes. '3 He estimated the Chinese population of Darwin to be between 800 to 1300 at the time, and predominantly male. The subject of Chinese brothel prostitution is something of an anomaly in the history of Darwin; a period of some seven years during which Chinese prostitution was permitted if not encouraged. In this article I will first consider the evidence for Chinese women's presence in early Darwin, and then explore the scant sources relating to women in prostitution, focusing on evidence taken from their encounters with the police and judiciary.

Please refer to publisher version or contact your library.