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Image ‘Unidentified Passengers Arrive’. (Photographer: Sam Hood, courtesy of State Library NSW) 

Furniture production was one of the most important economic activities for Chinese immigrants and their descendants in Australia after the gold rushes of the 1850s-60s. There were around two hundred Chinese furniture factories and up to two thousand workers Australia-wide at its peak in 1911-12, concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne. As a perceived danger to the industrial advancement of ‘White Australia’, Chinese furniture factories were the focus of of discriminatory agitation and legislation, a prominent feature of which was ‘race’-based furniture stamping. 

The Chinese Australian Historical Society are proud to present a seminar on how Chinese manufacturers operated despite such obstacles by exploring their business networks. Drawing on a variety of historic source material, especially insolvency and bankruptcy files, guest speaker Peter Gibson will reveal surprising new insights into the nature of Chinese-Australian enterprise and indeed the nature of ‘White Australia’ itself.

Peter Gibson is finalising his PhD thesis on Australia’s Chinese furniture factories at the University of Wollongong. He has published articles in Chinese Diaspora Studies, Labour History, the Australian Economic History Review and Twentieth Century China. 

When: Saturday 20 July, 2:30 pm 
Where: Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanic School of Arts, Lvl 1 280 Pitt Street, Sydney
Cost: $10 members – $15 non-members (includes refreshments)
Bookings: 0417 655 233 or email

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