Banner Image: PASSING THE CUSTOMS: Customs officers administering the Restriction Act on an incoming China boat.

1906 Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test photo of Charley Darresool, 36, seated next to his Anglo-aboriginal wife with his brother standing. He and his wife could travel to Pentecost, in the New Hebrides to visit his people and return to Australia. This South Sea Islander was allowed to remain in Queensland whilst most of his compatriots were deported. Mrs Darresool was an anglo-Aboriginal, an Australian national (and "not a restricted immigrant"). The Pacific Islanders' Labourers' Act thus exempted her husband from deportation. Image: National Archives Australia, NAA: J3136, 1906/101.


Dressed up in his fine silk blue tunic for this official 1891 portrait is 28 year old Palmerston tailor, King Chow, who worked in one of the many prosperous Chinese businesses in was to become Darwin. He later cooked in camps for cowboys on the vast cattle stations owned by Streeter and Male in the north west of Western Australia. He went to Perth for a much needed eye operation. Later on, in Melbourne, he was granted a fresh re-entry permit. A letter of support from the local clan and his 35 year old South Australian permit established his identity. He embarked for China. He never used this permit to return. Image National Archives of Australia.


An uncomfortable Loo Pon poses here in flash clothes, against a painted rural backdrop. A visit to a city photography studio would have been a singular and daunting experience for Chinese gardeners like this 23 year old, who spent their days working in a co-operative market garden in the outer Melbourne suburbs speaking only dialect Cantonese and living in shared quarters.

When he arrived, the British Empire was at its zenith; its colonies extended from Hong Kong to Victoria. He was then 16 year old, sponsored by his clansmen and worked hard to pay off his fare. He would proudly return visit to his peasant family in the village. His choice of Edwardian gentleman's clothes reveals his middle class  aspirations. Image National Archives of Australia

Marm Deen Khan was born in another British colony, the Punjab, India in 1868. He was fortunate to arrive in New South Wales four years before the operation of the federal Immigration Restriction Act. Indians then could enter the Colonies freely, unlike the Chinese whose influx was regulated. Most worked as cane cutters, farm labourers, hawkers and camel drivers and were the second largest Asian migrant group in colonial Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. He owned a lucrative horse and cattle trading business in Lismore and could afford to import his family, photographed in Sydney in 1913, before a visit back home. (Daughters: Back then left to right: Osmata 7yrs 6 months, Ameena 3 years 3 months, Jannet 5 and Fatima 1yr 6 months). Image National Archives of Australia

For more remarkable stories of coloured migrants in White Australia, please turn over

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