An Aboriginal Chinese family: the Ah Kims

Ah Kim and Lily (Inje) with their children, photographed in 1918 on their Mugg’s Lagoon farm

(Ah Kim holding Winnie, Tyson Dai Sing, Fung Lay, George Ah Kim, Winnie, Lily holding Orrie and baby Lemmie)

This happy picture belies the tragedy that this Chinaman was to suffer later in life(1).

Ah Kim was 11 when he left for the Northern Territory in 1872 to join his people in Darwin. He worked there for 24 years as a market gardener and cook. He settled at Mugg’s Lagoon (25 miles from Wyndham in the Kimberleys, Western Australia) where he worked a 9 acre farm and store(2) with his partner Lily (Inje). They married in 1908. She was from the Gajerong people of Kunannura(1)

When he was 60 he took his 8 year old son Fung Lay to China

Two other sons, Tyson Dai Sing

and George Toong Choi

 were staying with Ah Kim’s father’s family and going to school there. They had left Mugg’s Lagoon in September 1919 for Darwin where guardians Chung Yee and Lew Gett (sic) arranged their departure documents

Chung Yee,  a Wyndham storekeeper, accompanied the boys on the voyage to the family home.  Fung Lay and Tyson were later killed in a Boxer uprising(1). George Ah Kim returned home when he was 15.After their mother died, the three daughters,Winnie,Orange (Orrie)and Lemon (Lemmie)were taken away from Ah Kim. He had cared for them on his own until the Aborigines Department found out about them. They were sent to the half-caste native settlement at Moore River.

George worked as a stockman but died in 1939 when, at 26, his horse rolled over him and broke his back (9).

 George Ah Kim about 1928 with a dead eaglehawk (wedge-tail eagle) which brought a bounty of five shillings(11).

Ah Kim never saw his girls again. When contact was made much later he was too feeble to visit them down south. He wanted to be buried in his garden at Muggs Lagoon so he dug his own grave, laid down in it and waited for death. He was 99.


(1) Kimberley Historical Society.

(2) NAA. E752 1921/4

(3) NAA. E752 1922/10

(4) Douglas Lam Facebook post to Anthony Ah Kee 13.8. 2020. 大成 Dai Sing means “major accomplishment” or “achievement “can be both a given name or business name.

(5) NAA. E752 1919/45

(6) NAA. E752 1919/44

(7) Auber Octavius Neville  “HALF BLOOD Aboriginal Chinese Girl" Australia's Coloured Minority: Its Place in the Community 1947

(8)NAA E752 1919/37 ChungYeeCanton1869CookStorekeeperBoarloola13yPineCreekKatherine3yWhyndham11yDarwin2y.1900-1902.1908-1910.1916-1917.1919-1921Taiyuan1885GoodEnglish. He travelled to and from China at least 5 times and was probably a clan leader in Wyndham.

(9) Douglas Lam Facebook post to Anthony Ah Kee 13.8. 2020 “永義丰,丰 is likely a simplified form of 豐. Wing Yee Fung, wing entails enduring, eternal, yee is righteousness, harmony, whereas fung as in HSBC BANK in Chinese is bountiful. It is a business name rather than a personal name.” Appears on the back of Chung Yee’s CEDT - likely the name of the Darwin business that arranged his IRA application?

(10) Government Gazette of W.A. Friday July 29, 1927 Payment of Uniform Bonus for Destruction of Wild Dogs, Foxes, and Eaglehawks (Section 10, Sub-section 31). p.1729. “91. The uniform bonus payable, for the destruction of wildogs, foxes, and eaglehawk is under the provisions of Section 10, Subsection(2), of the Act shall be as follows: 4. (b) For every eaglehawk destroyed - Five shillings.”

(11) Paul J. Mackett

Aboriginals at Wyndham Native Hospital

Naa Darwin Office

Series F1 Item 1943/130

Treatment of H/C and Aboriginals at Wyndham Native Hospital

Statement Sheet No. 1

Natives admitted to Wyndham Hospital from Northern territory Stations 1937 - 1939

Rosewood Station

Name Age Caste Complaint Admitted  Discharged Notes

George Ah Kim 25 H/C  Fractured spine 5. 7.1938  7. 7.1938  Deceased

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