I came across this interesting article recently of the descendants of the first known Chinese settler in Australia and how they are acknowledging and connecting to their Chinese heritage. MAK SAI YING is the first known and documented Chinese settler in Australia who arrived in Port Jackson aboard the ship Laurel in February 1818 — decades before the gold rush that saw many more Chinese people travel to Australia. When he arrived in Australia from Canton, he worked as a carpenter for the famous English settler John Blaxland, who he met aboard the Laurel. Later Mak, became an entrepreneur in his own right – owning the Peacock Inn in Parramatta and several other shops. Blaxland once wrote a reference for Mr Mak describing him as “an honest, respectable character”. Barry Shying and his grandson Nick, really didn’t know this link to their Chinese heritage, despite their last name sounding very “Chinese” like. They tell ABC News that there were suspicions but it wasn’t until 30 years ago, that Barry Shying received a phone call from a stranger and from then was convinced his great grandfather was in fact Chinese – the first known Chinese settler in Oz – Mak Sai Ying.
“I feel a bit overwhelmed, quite truthfully,”
“But I am very glad to do it. It sort of gave me a feeling of connection which I have never had before, and that feeling of connection has continued on.”
However, Barry’s grandson Nick had a different path with the 23 year old knowing about his Chinese heritage since he was young. Nick studied Chinese in high school and went on a study tour of China to connect with his roots:
“I haven’t always appreciated and fully understood what it meant, but I have certainly been brought up in an environment where I have known our family history,”
“It is hard to say that I feel naturally like I am a Chinese in the same way others who might have a closer connection probably do,”
“But I think it’s been specifically interesting for me to learn about that history, language and culture because of the fact that I know that part of my family history extended back to China.”
I think this is pretty awesome in terms of descendants acknowledging and researching their Chinese roots and heritage considering the Chinese have contributed greatly to the history and continue to contribute to the multicultural make up of Australia – sadly though, Australia is a fairly toxic society at the moment with the sinophobia and lets hope the more of history which is uncovered, the less this toxicity grows. I would encourage y’all to read the original article, as it has a lot of interesting insights and history.
Images via ABC News
To read the original article, please click on: 200 years of Chinese-Australians: First settler’s descendants reconnect with their roots