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Memento : Issue 22
15 january 2003 memento in the archives Nelly Duck's handprint. Handprints were used to confirm the identity of non-Europeans applying to re-enter Australia. Above: Questions and answers prepared for Yong Choo by his father to help him return to Australia. In 1899, Australian-born Yong Choo, Henry, Mullum and Nelly Duck went to China to attend school. Many Chinese families in Australia sent their children to China for a few years to gain a Chinese education. However, to return to Australia, under the Immigration Restriction Act they had to prove their identity and that they were born here. Australian birth certificates were one form of proof, but government officials also used photographs, handprints and interviews to confirm their identity. After ten years in China, the Duck children no longer spoke any English. To help them answer the official's questions correctly, their father wrote possible questions and answers in Chinese on pieces of paper. On discovering these papers, Australian officials thought the children must have been Chinese-born and were trying to enter Australia illegally. Eventually the confusion was sorted out and they were allowed home to live with their father in rural Queensland. NAA: A1, 1917/5576