AMWF: A Key Reason For The White Australia Policy


Chinese men were found living with 73 opium addicted Australian white women when Quong Tart surveyed the goldfields for opium addicts, and a lot of homeless women abused by husbands and prostitutes ran away and married Chinese men in Sydney after taking refuge in Chinese opium dens in gambling houses, Reverend Francis Hopkins said that ‘A Chinaman’s Anglo-Saxon wife is almost his God, a European’s is his slave. This is the reason why so many girls transfer their affections to the almond-eyed Celestials.’ when giving the reason why these women married Chinese men.[6]

White men in Australia were afraid of the sexual and racial threats they thought came from Pacific islander and Asian men and it was written that the Chinaman “marries, or cohabits with the mean white woman, jostles and competes with the white man, and when it comes to labouring in the tropics, supplants him.” in the Sydney Morning Herald, with interracial sex and prostitution booming in Northern Australia because of the racial sexual imbalance due to the fact that Australia hardly ever permitted the immigration of non-white women.[7]

Around Melbourne’s Little Bourke Street precinct and Sydney’s Lower George Street grew majority Chinese male enclaves and in total in Australia there were 50,000 Chinese labourers and ministers by 1870, with opium dens being a standard thing found around the Chinese ghettos, the Chinese men were married by poor white women or serviced by poor white women prostitutes, who filled the missing female niche in the Chinese community and this led to condemnation of the white women as opium users and inflamed anti-Chinese sentiment.[8]

A parliamentary commission was held regarding Sydney’s Chinese gambling which brought white European women to testify on 14 December 1891, such as 27-year-old Minnie, who had long term relationships with two Chinese men whom treated her kindly after she engaged in “casual” sexual relations with multiple Chinese men.[9]

Minnie ended up having sex with Chinese men after meeting them with friends who were also doing it, after she ran away from an abusive alcoholic husband when she was 16, seven other women were interviewed besides Minnie, girls and women escaped a dangerous street life by taking sanctuary in the inner city and The Rocks with the Chinese, another woman interviewed was Hannah who escaped her jailed brutal European husband to go live with a Chinese man, explaining that ‘I thought it was better to have one man than be knocking about the streets with everybody’, since the busband’s ‘people would not look after me’, and Minnie said, ‘I think fully half of them come to the Chinese when they have nowhere else to go’, and she was asked ‘Is it because the Chinese are kind to them?’ she said ‘That is the main thing, and for the sake of a home.’[10]

Some of the European husbands and partners of the women tried forcing them to work as prostitutes to ‘knock about the streets’ and take the money they earned or were physically violent towards the women, which led the women to go to the Chinese who provided them with houses, Pauline explained “I would sooner live with a Chinaman than a white man. The Chinamen know how to treat a woman.’ after her European husband tried to make her be a prostitute, a woman named Maud said ‘he tries to please me, and I try to please him’ and a woman named Adelaide loved and wanted to marry a young Chinese man but his father forced him to break off the relationship, another two women interviewed were Ellen A and Ellen B.[11]

Some of these women still engaged in prostitution with multiple other Chinese men even after they formed a relationship with a single Chinese man, these women were proud of being wives of the Chinese and their well maintained houses, saying they were ‘clean and tidy’ and the commissioners even said they were ‘clean and even tastefully furnished’, and Ellen B said ‘You always see all the Chinese women’s houses clean and comfortable’, ‘always plenty to eat and drink’ and Minnie said she was ‘living respectably with a Chinaman’, the women also viewed non-white men of different races in a different light, saying that the ‘dark’ men like Lascars were different from the Chinese and Ellen B said ‘there is not a girl with the Chinese that cares about a dark fellow.’[12]

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