Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, friends from all over Australia gather here to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Chinese migration to Australia.
The Prime Minister, Federal opposition leader, premiers and chief ministers of every state and territory have sent their congratulatory messages to this gala to demonstrate their unanimous support. The President of the Legislative Council, Representative of the premier, opposition leader and other politicians of New South Wales and officials from the Chinese embassy and consulate generals have joined us in Sydney. We also have leading academics and other friends from all over Australia gathering here to celebrate this special occasion.
Today, in this theatre, we see a united, friendly and progressive Australia. Regardless of race, skin colours, faith or political beliefs, we are here to commemorate the greatness and hardship in Australian history and look forward to a bright future for Australia as a nation.
200 years ago, in 1818, Mr Mak Sai Ying from Guangdong landed at Port Jackson here in Sydney and became the first known documented Chinese migrant to Australia. Since then, Chinese people became one of the first developers of Australia and lived in harmony with the indigenous people of Australia. Chinese migrants worked with other ethnicities and contributed immensely in building a prosperous, affluent and harmonious Australia. By the 2016 Census, more than 1.2 million Australians had Chinese ancestry, which is more than 5% of the total population.
Very importantly, among the early Chinese migrants, we had leaders like Mr Mei Quong Tart, who promoted the development of Chinese communities and played an important role in building relations between Australia and China. He also made a significant impact on the social and political scene of mainstream society, which earned him wide support from various ethnicities in Australia.
Today, we are honoured to have the descendants of both Mr Mak Sai Ying and Mr Mei Quong Tart with us to commemorate the contribution and glory of our forefathers.
Although the early Chinese migrants were hard working and moderate in nature, they suffered under the “White Australia” policy with other non-European ethnicities and this became a significant taint on the great history of Australia. Even under the shadow of “White Australia” policy, the remaining Chinese migrants still contributed immensely and even sacrificed their lives for this country. For example, in the brutal war against fascism, Chinese migrants fought alongside other ethnicities of Australia and defended Australia with their blood and lives.
The implementation of the Racial Discrimination Act in 1975 declared that all Australians have the same rights and opportunities regardless of their skin colour or ethnicity and spelt the end of the “White Australia” policy. Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said at the time that “this is a historic and important measure. It will further enhance our country’s reputation and, bring the ‘family of the nation’ closer together in trust and comradeship.”This Act joined the Constitution in becoming the foundation of what makes Australia a great, modern nation.
More than four decades after the implementation of the Racial Discrimination Act, all ethnicities, including Chinese Australians, have worked together in making Australia the most successful model of multiculturalism and racial harmony. This reflects the tolerance of Australian society and it is something we should all be very proud of.
We love this great nation, at the same time we cherish our bonds with our country of origin; this is a natural feeling shared by all ethnicities across Australia, including Chinese Australians and is part of multiculturalism in our common homeland. For 200 years, Chinese Australians promoted the brilliant culture, tradition and character of China and won recognition and respect from other ethnicities. Chinese culture has become one of the most cherished spiritual heritages of Australia.
Earlier this month, an article appeared in The New York Times looking back at the history of Chinese migrants in Australia, titled: ‘200 Years On, Chinese Australians Are Still Proving They Belong’. Yes, Chinese migrants have been in Australia for 200 years – two centuries of perseverance, contribution, struggles, pioneers, integration, unity and working together.
200 years of history provides ample reasons to make us extremely confident about the future of Chinese Australians and the future of Australia more broadly, our beautiful common homeland.