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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

Mabel Wang on her father's role as a leader

Mara Moustafine and Mabel Wang.

Mabel Wang reflects on her father's role as a leader in the declining Chinese community of Melbourne



Date Added:

06 February 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

7.8 MB






... my father was – my father was quite an unusual man, he was in a way one of the leaders of the Chinese community, in those days there were very few people here. There were probably very few families and if you walked down Little Bourke Street you knew everybody because there were so few of us.





Well they weren’t allowed to come here anyway, for – in the first place, no wives were able to come, only these poor men who were –had no families, no wives and the few families who were here wouldn’t have been more than maybe not even 20 families in Melbourne. And in the whole of Australia there would have been so few. So my dad was actually became sort of a spokesman because his English was good, he could write English, he could speak English and he was one of these people who you know, he knew lots of – he sort of gradually learned – grew to know lots of people – he grew to know politicians and anybody who you know, who was helpful and he was a bit political because he was actually the president or the secretary of the Kuomintang which was the Nationalist Party founded by Dr Sun Yat-sen, who was the leader of the revolution.


And so all the overseas Chinese most of them, were followers of Dr Sun because he was the one who overthrew the Manchu Dynasty. And so they were – he was very active in that role, very political and so you know, we grew up in that sort of atmosphere, you know, although he never talked to us about politics at home but he was sort of like the one who people would ask him if there was anything of – anything Chinese that they wanted to discuss and he used to write letters to the editor about different things. Like, when - you know, when during the war, when Menzies was in power, they used to ship iron ore to Japan and it’d come back in guns and kill us, you know.


And he used to write about things like that – that sort of affected us. He had a very good friend who was Peter Russo (sp?) he was a journalist during those days, very famous journalist and although Dad used to get Peter to polish up his letters to the editor.


My father’s business started in Chinatown, they had a banana – you know, in those days the bananas used to come from Queensland and they’d be green. So you’d have to put them in gas chambers to ripen them. And so that’s what they had in Little Bourke Street. And later on they moved to the wholesale market in west Melbourne. Then later on, my father moved from Carlton to Toorak: from the ridiculous to the sublime.


End transcript