Indigenous People in Chinese Australian Newspapers, 1894–1912: Chinese Perspectives

Collage of Chinese-Australian newspapers.
Collage of Chinese Australian newspapers, compiled by Daozhi Xu.

Dr Daozhi Xu, Macquarie University.

Australia’s First Nations peoples have developed longstanding and diverse relationships with Chinese immigrants. These relationships confronted and endured colonial control, bigotry and animosity. But nowadays the lack of awareness of Indigenous–Chinese contact history contributes to the bigotry in the public discourse, which continues to frame Indigenous concerns as a matter between black and white, Indigenous and European, colonised and coloniser. This has excluded Chinese immigrants, as well as other non-European immigrant groups, from participation of and involvement in the debates on Indigenous issues towards reconciliation. Scholars have given some attention to Indigenous–Chinese contact history, focusing primarily on Indigenous life stories. Much remains unknown about how the Chinese perceived their relationships with Indigenous people. The significance of these interrelations for Chinese Australian history is not well understood. By examining primarily early Chinese Australian newspapers published between 1894 and 1912, this project will provide a nuanced understanding of Chinese perspectives on Indigenous people before and after Federation. Moving beyond the divide between race and ethnicity, it will explore how and why Chinese Australians engaged with Indigenous issues and settler colonial governance of the Indigenous population. The project helps address the bigotry towards and about Indigenous–Chinese interrelations, and thereby contribute to the ongoing process of reconciliation and the building of social cohesion in Australia. 

Dr Daozhi Xu is a research fellow in the Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language, and Literature at Macquarie University. She is a 2022 recipient of the Freilich Project ECR Small Grant.

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