Tag: 2016

2016 in review

In January 2016 I took up a 0.8 FTE appointment as ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the School of Humanities & Social Inquiry in the Faculty of Law, Humanities & the Arts at the University of Wollongong. Here’s a look at some of what I’ve been doing this year.


  • DIY Trove list exhibition – I developed a small and experimental online exhibition about the Chinese community in New South Wales before 1940, using a new platform developed by Tim Sherratt.
  • Public talk at the National Library of Australia – On 24 January I delivered a public lecture to around 80 people at the National Library on Australia’s Chinese communities in the Qing era, and did a Q&A for the library’s blog.


  • Symposium on the Commonwealth Department of Immigration: Then and Now – By invitation I presented a paper, titled ‘A culture of suspicion: Chinese at the border of White Australia’, at this one-day symposium, convened by Gwenda Tavan, at La Trobe University on 19 February. The keynote speaker was Robert Manne, and other participants included Kim Rubenstein, James Jupp, Tim Sherratt and Mary Tomsic.
  • Travel planning – I spent quite a lot of time this month in planning and organising travel, both for my research trip to Canada in July and August 2016, and for the Hometown Heritage Tour, which is planned for March 2017.


  • Opening of ‘Modernity’s End: Half the Sky’– I was the guest speaker at the opening of this exhibition by accomplished Chinese Australian artist John Young Zerunge, held at the Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby, on 2 March 2016. I also prepared an essay, ‘Women, history and the shifting patterns of Chinese Australian life’, for the exhibition catalogue.
  • Induction – I attended a one-day academic induction session run by the Professional and Organisational Development Services at University of Wollongong on 1 March 2017.
  • Writing – I wrote and submitted a draft of my chapter ‘ “To his home at Jembaicumbene”: Women’s cross-cultural encounters on a colonial goldfield’ for a collection titled Migrant Cross-Cultural Encounters in Asia and the Pacific, edited by Jacqueline Leckie, Angela McCarthy and Angela Wanhalla (Ashgate Publishing, forthcoming 2017).
  • Advice to Australian Dictionary of Biography – Through Carolyn Rasmussen (University of Melbourne & member of the National Editorial Board of the ADB), I provided suggestions of Chinese Australians who might be included in future volumes of the ABD.


  • Writing – I revised and resubmitted my chapter for the Migrant Cross-Cultural Encounters book following comments from the book editors, ordered images from the State Library of NSW and chased up pesky copyright permissions.
  • Chinese Anzacs consultancy – I undertook a small consultancy with the Chinese Museum in Melbourne to identify any as-yet-unknown Chinese Anzacs from New South Wales. I found four more men to all to their list.
  • Early Career Research Presentations with the Vice Chancellor – On 18 April I spoke at the UoW Faculty of Law, Humanities & the Arts ‘Early Career Research Presentations with the Vice Chancellor’, outlining my career path to date, my research interests and my new DECRA project. My talk was titled: ‘History, archives and Chinese Australian lives’.
  • School of Humanities & Social Inquiry Research Week presentation – On 20 April I spoke at the UoW School of Humanities & Social Inquiry ‘History Postgraduate and Early Career Researchers Presentation’ on ‘The naturalisation of Chinese migrants to Australia, Canada and New Zealand from the 1860s to 1920’.
  • Early Chinese Australian newspapers – A post I wrote for the Trove blog in 2015 was republished in Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, vol. 7, 2014–2015.
  • Seminar at Society of Australian Genealogists – I gave a 2-hour research seminar at the Society of Australian Genealogists in Sydney on 30 April 2016. The presentation, titled ‘Researching Chinese Australian family history’, covered: the history of Chinese Australian families, Chinese Australian names and hometowns, and sources to use in researching Chinese Australian family history. The seminar was attended by about 40 people, some who had travelled from as far as Port Macquarie and the Hunter Valley to attend.


  • PhD scholarship – I prepared and advertised for a PhD in Overseas Chinese History attached to my DECRA, and responded to inquiries from potential applicants. The funding for the 3.5-year scholarship is provided by the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at UOW.
  • Chinese Australian Hometown Heritage Tour – Together with Active Travel (Canberra), I finalised the tour itinerary, prepared the advertising brochure and released the tour for bookings. It was booked out within 24 hours, with further names on a waiting list.
  • Writing – I spent a lot of May working on my chapter on Ham Hop and the ‘Poon Gooey case’, which is my contribution to the book on Chinese Australian women that Julia Martinez and I are co-editing.
  • Training and seminars – I attended a number of courses and seminars this month: UOW Induction (UOW); Introduction to Project Management (UOW); launch and discussion of Ann McGrath’s Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia (ANU); Biography Workshop: Paul Pickering on ‘Understanding prosopography’ (ANU).
  • Networking – At the invitation of Li Tana (ANU) I met with two Chinese historians, FEI Sheng and YUAN Ding from Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, who were on a research visit to Australia looking for sources on early Chinese migrants to Australia.


  • Colonial and Settler Studies Network activities – I attended a public lecture by Professor Ann Curthoys titled ‘Looking for gender? Writing Aboriginal-settler relations into Australian political history’ on 16 June, which resonated with me as a feminist historian now working on a project that is essentially about men. The lecture was followed by the launch of Claire Lowrie’s new book, Masters and Servants, Cultures of Empire in the Tropics (Manchester University Press, 2016).
  • Work-in-progress reading group – The chapter I am writing on Ham Hop was workshopped by our UOW History work-in-progress reading group, with lots of helpful comments on how to strengthen the argument and refine the focus of the chapter.
  • Writing – I prepared my talk and slides for the ISSCO 2016 conference.


I spent July in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where I:

  • participated in an invitation-only workshop on the ‘Cantonese Pacific in the Making of the Modern World’ at the University of British Columbia
  • gave a paper at the ISSCO 2016 conference in Richmond
  • researched at the BC Archives and City of Victoria Archives in Victoria, and at the UBC Library (Chung Collection) and City of Vancouver Archives in Vancouver.

For more detail see the blog post I wrote about my Canada research trip, July 2016.

Other activities included:

  • Chinese Australian Hometown Heritage Tour – I met with Dr Selia Tan to discuss plans for the Jiangmen, Kaiping and Taishan components of the Hometown Heritage Tour.
  • Who Do You Think You Are? – I provided information about Chinese on the Australian goldfields (in particular on Chinese and the law) to Rosalind Hill, a researcher with Wall to Wall who are producing the next UK series of Who Do You Think You Are?
  • Talk cited and blog posts republished – The Parramatta Heritage Centre published a blog post and a guide to Researching Chinese family history in Australia which incorporated material I presented at the Society of Australian Genealogists earlier in the year; Jan O’Connell republished (with permission) my blog post on Chinese Christmas boxes on her Australian food history blog; my Trove blog post on early Chinese Australian newspapers was republished (with permission) in the 2014–15 issue of Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies.


  • UOW Research Online – I uploaded digital copies of my publications to UOW’s Research Online.
  • ABC International interview – On 11 August I did an interview with ABC International journalist Jason Fang about Charles Lee, Australia’s first Chinese Australian diplomat, to coincide with the opening of the Chungking Legation exhibition on at the Chinese Museum.
  • Seminar on content-based image retrieval – On 19 August I attended a seminar by Associate Professor Lei Wang from UOW on ‘Content-based image retrieval’, discussing a prototype archival photograph retrieval system he has developed using digitised photographs in the National Archives of Australia collection.
  • Whisper Workshop 2016 – On 29 August I participated in the Whisper Workshop 2016, organised by Jonathan O’Donnell (@researchwhisperer) and Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer), and held at the ANU. This invitation-only workshop brought together 25 key people interested in linking universities and creative and cultural industries.
  • Writing – I reviewed page proofs and answered indexing queries for my book chapter ‘To his home at Jembaicumbene’ for the Migrant Cross-Cultural Encounters book.
  • Naturalisation database – I started the process to employ Dr Karen Schamberger as my research assistant to help with data entry for my naturalisation database and other research tasks.


  • Teaching – I gave a talk about an interesting historical source to Jane Carey’s HIST274 Hands On History class on 7 September. I also did supervision with my MPhil student.
  • History Week talk – On 7 September I gave a public talk at Corrimal Library as part of NSW History Week. The talk, titled ‘From Canton to the colonies: Chinese women in 19th century New South Wales’, was attended by about 65 people and very well received with a great Q&A session and discussion afterwards.
  • Research – I visited the National Archives in Canberra and started photographing all the certificates in NAA: A806 (‘cancelled’ NSW certificates of naturalisation).
  • ACHRC Humanities in the Regions – By invitation I spoke at the Australian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) ‘Humanities in the Regions: Building Capacity Through Connectivity and Knowledge’, held at UOW on 28–29 September. I spoke about my career path from PhD to DECRA and about writing the ROPE (Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence) section of my DECRA application.
  • Chinese women book proposal – Julia Martinez and I prepared and sent off a proposal for Hong Kong University Press for our co-edited book on Chinese women, which is now tentatively titled Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility Between Australia and China. The proposal was well received and we are working to submit the manuscript by Christmas.
  • Networking – On 21 September I met with Kim Rubenstein (Professor of Law at ANU) and her recently graduated PhD student Peter Prince to discuss our common interest in the history of Australian citizenship law and Chinese migration.
  • Seminar – On 21 September I attended the Herbert and Valmae Freilich Foundation’s Annual Lecture in Bigotry and Tolerance 2016 at the ANU. The topic was ‘How do we define racism in modern Australia?’ and speakers included Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane and academics from the ANU.


  • Teaching – On 6 October I gave a lecture to Claire Lowrie’s HIST355 Making History class on ‘historical research in the digital age’. I did supervision with my MPhil student and completed his annual progress review (APR). I met with a potential MPhil student to discuss the possibility of her studying with us at UOW from 2017.
  • Research – I visited the National Archives in Canberra and finished photographing all the certificates in NAA: A806 (‘cancelled’ NSW certificates of naturalisation).
  • Naturalisation database – I have set up a naturalisation database in Airtable, and in October my RA, Dr Karen Schamberger, began work on data entry from the records I copied in the BC Archives in July. Initially she is checking the data I have entered, attaching digital copies of documents to the entries, and noting any Chinese names she comes across.
  • My blog – I worked with a New England local historian, Gill Oxley, to prepare a guest blog post on Emma Tear Tack and her husband Rev. Joseph Tear Tack.
  • Chinese women book – I did further admin work to progress the manuscript, emailing authors with further comments and information re preparation of their chapters.
  • ANU Biography Workshop talk – On 27 October I attended a talk by Dr Su Tiping of Xi’an University, who has been a fellow at the National Centre for Biography at the ANU in 2016. Dr Su’s talk was about Chinese Australians in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. I am following up with Professor Melanie Nolan about further suggestions for Chinese Australians, particularly women, who could be nominated for inclusion in the ADB.
  • Probation review – I completed the paperwork for my Fixed-Term Academic Probation, a requirement of my appointment at UOW, which included compiling information about the work I had done this year towards Research (Level 2) and Governance & Service (Level 1).
  • Image permissions for Charlie Allen chapter – I organised image permissions for photographs that will accomany my forthcoming (2017) chapter on the life of Charlie Allen, microhistory and Chinese Australian biography.


  • Chinese Fortunes exhibition – I provided historical advice and wrote exhibition text on Chinese Australian families for the Chinese Fortunes exhibition being prepared by the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. The bilingual exhibition will be on display at MADE from February to June 2017, and later in the year at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne.
  • Chinese Australian women in the ABD – At the invitation of the head of the National Centre for Biography (ANU), Professor Melanie Nolan, I compiled a list of Chinese Australian women who could be included in future volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography. At present, the ADB has entries on only 30 Australians with Chinese heritage, and none of these are women.
  • Colonial Formations conference – I attended and presented at the Colonial Formations conference at UOW from 23–25 November. My paper discussed my research into Chinese naturalisation and was in a sesssion I organised on ‘coloured’ British subjects in Australia and the empire. My fellow presenters were Professor Margaret Allen (Adelaide University) and Associate Professor Julia Martinez (UOW). I scheduled live tweets of my paper, which I compiled into a blog post.
  • Chinese women book – I completed a final draft of my chapter on Ham Hop and the Poon Gooey case, and gave Julia Martinez feedback on her chapter.
  • Probation review – I fullfilled the requirements of my Fixed-Term Academic Probation, meaning that UOW will employ me for the remainder of my contract!


  • Writing – I’ve been working on an article about the entry of Chinese wives in early 20th-century Australia, provisionally titled: ‘Paragraph (m): Chinese wives, immigration law and White Australia’. I’m planning to submit it to the Open Libraries of the Humanities journal.
  • Research – I spent a day at the National Archives of Australia in Chester Hill, Sydney, to follow up on research for my Chinese wives article.
  • Publication – Migrant Cross-Cultural Encounters in Asia and the Pacific, edited by Jacqueline Leckie, Angela McCarthy, Angela Wanhalla, was published by Routledge. It includes my chapter: ‘”To his home at Jembaicumbene”: Women’s Cross-Cultural Encounters on a Colonial Goldfield’.
  • PhD scholarship – I recruited a great student to take up the UOW-funded PhD scholarship attached to my DECRA. She will commence in Autumn 2017, researching ‘marriage, women’s nationality and Australia’s Asian communities in the early 20th century’.