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"The Middle People" A History of the Launceston Chinese Community


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Alcock, J 1998 , '"The Middle People" A History of the Launceston Chinese Community', Honours thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The Launceston Chinese community makes up only a small proportion of the Launceston population,
yet inspite of this fact it remains an active, cohesive cultural group. The community, however, in
spite of being identifiably a group made up of a specific, racially defined, sector of the Launceston
community is not exclusive. The group, although Chinese, is equally Australian and the members
consider themselves "middle people", with a unique perspective on two vastly different cultures,
which allows them to function socially with more alternatives than the either the Chinese living in
China or Europeans living in Australia, a culturally European-based society.
Contributing factors for the existence of this situation come from many sources. The culture
of the Australia as essentially a European colony, and the history of China, particularly in the last 160
years have both influenced immigration patterns. The political and social turmoil that China has
undergone during this era has proved a powerful motivating factor for Chinese to emigrate.
Australian history is of equal importance. The Australian demand for labour and the goldrushes
provided economic prospects for Chinese and this proved a motivating factor inattracting Chinese to
immigrate to Australia.
Tasmania's history of differences from other colonies and states provided opportunities for
economic prospects without the same extent of racial antagonism experienced in other areas of
Australia. Thus the Tasmanian tin industry drew much Chinese secondary immigration, and the
concentrations of Chinese in the North East gave them the cultural freedom and security to develop a
harmonious and even mutually beneficial relationship with European immigrant sectors of the
The Chinese community of the twentieth century, particularly the post World War II era, saw
the Tasmanian Chinese community linked more strongly with some of the problems between Asians
and Europeans in other parts of Australia. This was because of Federation in 1901 and the jurisdiction
for immigration legislation passing from the hands of the colonial government to that of the federal
government. Legislative persecution of Tasmanian Chinese inspired by racial disputes that originated
in different colonies ensued.
In the era 1966- 1973 changing attitudes led to the dismantling of the legislation, known as
the White Australia Policy and a wave of educated, enterprising and entrepreneurial Chinese
immigrants began to arrive in Launceston. Through an examination of the composition of the modern
Launceston Chinese community, its concerns, organisations and activities, this study will portray a
community neither fully Chinese nor fully Australian; neither assimilated nor isolated, and also not
strictly both Australian and Chinese. Instead they are a "middle people" who have synthesised their
own unique culture out of comparing and reconciling aspects of both Australian and Chinese culture
and thus synthesising something completely new.

Item Type: Thesis - Honours
Authors/Creators:Alcock, J
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