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The people

Albert Jaime Grassby AM

Born in Brisbane of Spanish and Irish parents, Al Grassby (1926–2005) was a journalist before he entered politics. He was the State Labor member for the New South Wales seat of Murrumbidgee (1965–1969) and federal Member for Riverina (1969–1974). He was appointed Minister for Immigration in 1972.

Known for his brightly coloured shirts and ties and equally colourful personality, Grassby's dream was to achieve in Australia a rich, blended and tolerant society. During his term as Minister for Immigration in the Whitlam Government, Grassby put ethnic affairs and multiculturalism on the political agenda and achieved the formal abolition of the White Australia policy.

Liang Quichao (Liang Chi-chao)

A leading Chinese monarchist, Liang Quichao came to Australia in November 1900 to raise support for the Emperor Kuang Hsu. He spent six months travelling throughout Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, lecturing on reform and the need to restore Emperor Kuang Hsu to power by deposing the Empress Dowager Ci Xi.

Mei Quong Tart

Mei Quong Tart (1850–1903), businessman and community leader, was born in Hsinning, Canton. He was only 9 years old when he migrated to the New South Wales goldfields near Braidwood with his uncle. He joined the household of a Scottish family, the Simpsons, who converted him to Christianity, and taught him to read, write and speak English, albeit with a Scottish accent. From an early age he used his language skills as an interpreter, becoming government interpreter for the districts of Braidwood, Araluen and Majors Creek. During the increase in anti-Chinese activity in 1887 Quong Tart spent much of his time acting as an interpreter and assisting his countrymen.

Quong Tart became a naturalised British subject in 1871, entitling him to buy land and to vote. He married an Englishwoman, Margaret Scarlett, in 1886. They baptised each of their six children in a different Christian denomination. He was the first Chinese to be elected to an Oddfellows Lodge in New South Wales and became a Freemason in 1885.

He campaigned passionately against the opium trade and its effect on his fellow Chinese. In 1883 Quong Tart was appointed to a commission of inquiry into the disturbances in the Chinese camps in the Riverina. He was very perturbed at the level of opium addiction in these camps and gave public lectures to raise support for the anti-opium crusade. He petitioned the government to ban opium imports and published A Plea for the Abolition of the Importation of Opium in 1887. The proceeds were used to aid the Bulli Disaster Relief Fund, established following one of the worst Australian mining disasters in the coal mines near Wollongong, New South Wales. Quong Tart was recognised and honoured with high distinctions granted from the Chinese Imperial Court in Beijing for his extensive work with the Chinese communities in Australia.

As a businessman, Quong Tart was respected by both the Chinese and Australian communities. The Simpsons had encouraged him to acquire shares in gold claims, and he later became a highly successful tea and silk merchant. He opened restaurants in George, King and Pitt streets, Sydney, which became popular meeting places. His employees greatly benefited from his enlightened attitude to working conditions. He allowed them time off for shopping, and sick leave with pay.

Quong Tart died in 1903, having never fully recovered from a savage attack by an intruder in his Queen Victoria Markets office in 1902. He was one of the only Chinese of his time to be fully accepted by the European Australian community.

Ping Nam

Sydney merchant Ping Nam was one of the leaders of the New South Wales Chinese Empire Reform Association. Formed in January 1900, the association promoted the Chinese monarchist cause. Other leaders included Thomas Yee Hing, Gilbert Quoy and C Leanfore. In the early 1920s Ping Nam and other members of the Sydney Chinese Chamber of Commerce were involved in the China–Australia Mail Steamship Line.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen

Physician-turned-nationalist, Dr Sun Yet-Sen (1866–1925) is recognised by Chinese everywhere as the founder of modern China. He was born in Hsiang-shan, Kwangtung Province, China, in 1866. He was the leader of the Chinese Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). His 'Three Principles of the People' were nationalism, democracy and people's livelihood (which included the regulation of private capital and land rights). Developed over many years, the principles sought to combine the fundamental aspects of nationalism, democracy and socialism. Following the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty, Dr Yat-Sen became the first provisional president of the Republic of China (1911–1912) and later served as the de facto ruler (1923–1925), although he died before the Kuomingtang could fully claim victory. After the communists took power in 1949, they also claimed Sun as their own, calling him 'a pioneer of the revolution'.

Thomas Jerome Bakhap

Tin miner turned senator, Thomas Jerome Kingston Bakhap (1866–1923) was born in Ballarat, Victoria and learnt to speak Chinese from his adoptive Chinese father. At the age of 16, he became an interpreter for Chinese east coast miners and settlers and first became involved in politics working as a delegate to miners' conferences.

Bakhap served as a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly from 1909 to 1913, resigning to take up a position as Liberal senator for Tasmania in Federal Parliament. He served until his death in 1923.

Senator Bakhap was approached to assist with the problems arising from the implementation of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. Bakhap served as a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts 1914–1917 and was Chairman of Committees between 1920 and 1923. He was also sent by the Commonwealth government on a trade mission to Asia in 1922.

William Ah Ket

William Ah Ket (1876–1936), lawyer and campaigner for Chinese rights, was born in Wangaratta, Victoria. His father, Ah Ket, and mother, Hing Ung, had established one of the first tobacco farms on the King River. William Ah Ket was educated at Wangaratta High School and was also taught at home by a Chinese tutor. As a teenager, his proficiency in both English and Chinese enabled him to act as a court interpreter. He had a distinguished legal career specialising in civil law, and for three decades was the only Chinese barrister and solicitor in Melbourne. In 1912 he married Gertrude Victoria Bullock.

William Ah Ket established a committee to oppose the proposed Immigration Restriction Act and he was also active in the Anti-Opium League of Victoria which attempted to bring about social reform among Chinese in Australia and abroad. A Paper on the Chinese and the Factories Acts, published in 1906, defended the rights of Chinese workers and factory owners against unfair legislation. The Melbourne Chinese Chamber of Commerce asked him to represent Australian Chinese at the opening of the first Chinese Parliament in Beijing in December, 1912 and he was Acting Consul for China in 1913–1914 and 1917.

William Liu OBE

William Liu OBE (1893–1984) was the Australian-born son of a Chinese immigrant labourer and an Anglo-Australian woman. When Liu was seven years old he was sent to his father's village in Taishan, Guangdon, China, for 8 years.

During the First World War Liu, with two other Chinese merchants Yee Wing and William Gockson, established the China–Australia Mail Steamship Line. He later served as Vice-President of the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce and was one of the founders of the Morrison Lectures. The lectures honoured George 'Chinese' Morrison, the Australian journalist who, in 1912, had been a political adviser to the first president of China, Dr Sun Yat-Sen.

William Liu was known as 'Uncle Bill' to the Chinese community in Sydney. He was instrumental in having the qualifying period for Chinese to acquire Australian citizenship shortened from 15 years to 5. He devoted most of his life to developing a better understanding between Australia and China and he was awarded the OBE in 1982.

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