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Memento : Issue 29
In 1997, the National Archives published Chinese Immigrants and Chinese– Australians in New South Wales by Julie Stacker and Peri Stewart which listed records on the Chinese in NSW, held in the Archives’ collection. More recently, we commissioned Dr Paul Jones to write a broader guide about our records on the Chinese in Australia. The new guide describes records on policy developments and the day-to-day administration of the travel and settlement by people of Chinese backgrounds from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Lured by discoveries of gold, from the mid-nineteenth century Chinese people began to travel to the Australian colonies to find work and make money. As supplies of gold became exhausted, they found other ways to earn a living – as market gardeners, servants and the owners of businesses both small and large. The Chinese quickly established rich and diverse communities within the wider British community in which they lived. Threatened by increasing numbers of Chinese arriving on Australian shores, colonial governments began to restrict their immigration. Following on from these early restrictions was one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the newly created Parliament of Australia, the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. This Act substantially limited immigration from all non-European – but specifically Asian – countries. The Immigration Restriction Act, together with several other pieces of legislation, formed the basis of what came to be known as the White Australia Policy. Not only did this policy significantly reduce Chinese immigration, it also placed restrictions on Australian-born Chinese wishing to re-enter Australia and prevented native-born Chinese living in Australia from applying for naturalisation. Today, the government records created in the administration of the White Australia Policy can reap a fine harvest for genealogists and other researchers. For instance, Customs collectors across the country kept careful records about the movements of Chinese people entering and leaving Australia. In order to be able to re-enter Australia, Chinese leaving the country had to apply for a Certificate Exempting from the Dictation Test (CEDT) and provide personal details and photographs. Records such as these, which are held in the Archives’ collection, are a rich source of information about Chinese migrants and temporary visitors to Australia, as well as those who were long-term residents or Australian born. The new guide will be published in June 2005. It can be purchased for $10.00 through our website at www.naa.gov.au, by phoning (02) 6212 3609 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. New guide to Chinese in Australia Little Sam Fong, born in Geraldton, WA, applied for a CEDT to allow him to re-enter Australia after travelling overseas in 1906. NAA: K1145, 1906/41 10 MEMENTO News from the National Archives