Faculty of Education and Arts

Yvonne Horsfield

CRCAH student 

yvonnehorsfield@students.federation.edu.auA Ballarat Chinese family history: an intergenerational study


The intention of this study is to examine the life and particular experience of a Chinese immigrant and his family against a background of migrant adjustment and ethnic discrimination. These factors presented a dual challenge for all Chinese who sought for one reason or another, to make their home in Australia during the period of the gold rush era.

Unlike Caucasian immigrants who were able to assimilate while still retaining certain important features of their ethnic identification, the Chinese were culturally excluded. They represented a demographically small, but culturally 'alien' and unpopular ethnic minority which was easily singled out by their difference in appearance and cultural orientation.

The particular migrant behaviour of the family evidenced between first and succeeding generations highlights a varying ethnic response to the different influences and parameters which apply to that generation. Therefore, within the main text, the family experience applied as a case study embodies a particular behavioural aspect of adaptation which all Chinese individual aspirations for acceptance and 'success' necessitated.

The directness of source material drawn from family members' written observations and oral recollections lends a degree of credibility to this outline of their experiences, which also highlights common elements relating to the experiences of other Chinese in the community. There are three main categories in which they can be viewed: those who responded to societal pressures to assimilate and renounced their ethnicity; those who became part of a mass exodus and returned to China 'ethnically intact'; and those who represented the 'solitary cultural exiles' and by dint of their failure to assimilate or return, thereby perpetuated the ultimate extinction of the ethnic Chinese remainder. These were the 'choices' that were available to them.

The main body of this thesis explores the biographical elements of the Tong Way family experiences, and the adjustments each generation made to their perceptions of ethnic and cultural identity while living in Ballarat over the past century.


St. Brigid's School Ballan: A Short History, St Brigid's School, Ballan, 2010

"Silver threads among the gold", 25th Anniversary of the Sovereign Hill School, Sovereign Hill Goldmining Museum, Ballarat, 2004

"A Lotta Lote Kit", Language resource kit in Italian, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese and German, DEET Project Grant, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat, 2001

"Motif and meaning: Aboriginal influences in Australian art", Education Kit, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat, 1999

"Eureka: the first Australian Republic?", Resource Kit, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Public Records Office, Ballarat, 1997

"Regional revelations: the road to discovery" INTERACTA: Journal of the Art Craft Teachers' Association, Victoria, 1997

article in Sadler, Tony & Morris, Beryl (eds.) Museum educators think aloud on educational philosophy, Quoll Enterprises, Seaton, SA, 1989