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In the 2006 Australian Census, 669,890 Australian residents identified themselves as having Chinese ancestry, either alone or with another ancestry.The early history of Chinese Australians had involved significant immigration from villages of the Pearl River Delta in Southern China.Less well known are the kind of society Chinese Australians came from, the families they left behind and what their intentions were in coming.
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Certainly by 1818, Mak Sai Ying (also known as John Shying) had arrived and after a period of farming became, in 1829, the publican of The Lion in Parramatta.
John Macarthur, a prominent pastoralist, employed three Chinese people on his properties in the 1820s and records may well have neglected others.
Individuals such as Macarthur’s employees were part of the varied mix that was early Sydney Town.
(Since the mid-19th century, Australia was dubbed the New Gold Mountain after the Gold Mountain of California in North America.) They sent money to their families in the villages, and regularly visited their families and retired to the village after many years, working as a market gardener, shopkeeper or cabinet maker.
As with many overseas Chinese groups the world over, early Chinese immigrants to Australia established Chinatowns in several major cities, such as Sydney (Chinatown, Sydney), Brisbane (Chinatown, Brisbane) and Melbourne (Chinatown, Melbourne).
The White Australia Policy of the early 20th Century severely curtailed the development of the Chinese communities in Australia.
However, since the advent of Multiculturalism as a government policy in the 1970s, many ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia) have immigrated to Australia.
In 2005-6 China (not including Hong Kong or Macau) was the third major source of permanent migrants to Australia behind the United Kingdom and New Zealand but with more migrants than from India.
Between 2000––06, the number of skilled migrants coming to Australia from China more than tripled, from 3,800 to 12,500 people.
From the very beginning of the colony of New South Wales, links with China were established when several ships of the First Fleet, after dropping off their convict load, sailed for Canton to pick up goods for the return to England.
The Bigge Report attributed the high level of tea drinking to 'the existence of an intercourse with China from the foundation of the Colony …' That the ships carrying such cargo had Chinese crew members is likely and that some of the crew and possibly passengers embarked at the port of Sydney is probable.