Banner photograph:Wong Chong family of Cobar in 1916

Dressed up in his fine silk blue tunic for this official 1891 portrait,  28 year old Palmerston tailor, King Chow, worked in one of the many prosperous Chinese businesses in what 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 and never used this permit to return. Image: National Archives of Australia.


An uncomfortable Loo poses here in flash clothes, against a painted rural backdrop. A visit to a city photography studio would have been a novel 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 years old, sponsored by his clansmen. He 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



Lucky Charley!

When the largest mass expulsion of people from Australia occurred in 1905, Charley Darresool was not amongst them. Because his wife was Anglo-Aboriginal, this South Sea Islander was allowed to remain in Queensland. The Pacific Islanders' Labourers' Act  exempted her husband from deportation as  he was married to a citizen.. He and his wife could travel to Pentecost, in the New Hebrides to visit his people and return to Australia using this 1906 Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test. Photographed is Charley Darresool, 36, seated next to his Anglo-aboriginal wife with his brother standing

  Image: National Archives Australia, NAA: J3136, 1906/101.

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 N.S.W.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

These stories about coloured migrants in Australia will have a companion genealogy site:

If your Asian/Pacific islander/Syrian ancestor worked in 

the Northern Territory or Queensland between 1860 and 1960

left and applied to return go to 

open from the Lunar New Year 2023. Other states will be added later.

You'll be able to view a front thumbnail portrait and details for free 

A paid subscription is available for more detailed photos and reports 

To see how it works, tap on the sample portraits... 

sample Queensland and Northern Territory coloureds

sample Victorian coloureds

sample NSW coloureds 

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