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The general store

The general store

This scene shows the Nomchong family loading goods outside their store in Braidwood, New South Wales

The Nomchong family's store was located in Braidwood, New South Wales. Here, family members are loading goods outside the store.

Successful shopkeepers and traders

Many Chinese Australians became successful shopkeepers and traders. Most of these businesses flourished in Melbourne and Sydney, but other enterprising Chinese settlers traded a wide range of goods in smaller cities and towns. The Nomchong family is an institution in Braidwood, New South Wales. For one hundred years they ran a very successful general goods business serving the local community and beyond to Tarago and Nelligen.

Even though many Chinese traders were accepted into wider society there was still hostility towards their community. Anti-Chinese leagues were formed by trade unions and gold miners. In March 1888, the Fifth Intercolonial Trade Union Congress in Brisbane resolved to take coordinated action. Three months later, the Intercolonial Conference on the 'Chinese question' was held in Sydney. This resulted in laws being passed in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, uniform in their intention to restrict Chinese entry to the colonies. There were few exceptions, such as Chinese who had been naturalised and accredited representatives of foreign governments. After Federation, one of the first acts passed by the Commonwealth Government was the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.

Throughout this period various members of the Chinese community worked assiduously to reform the anti-Chinese feelings of wider Australian society. Mei Quong Tart, George Kwok Bew, and the reverends George Soo Hoo Ten and John Young Wei in Sydney campaigned to counter this strong racism. In Melbourne, barrister William Ah Ket, Lowe Kong Meng, Reverend CH Cheong and Louis Ah Mouy worked to improve understanding between Chinese and non-Chinese Australians. Despite their efforts to bring about change, they were unable to prevent the passage of the Immigration Restriction Act and the imposition of the White Australia policy.