Our Place: Surry Hills, Darlinghurst & Paddington Interviews

Our Place - Surry Hills and Darlinghurst - Frank W. b. 1925

Frank talks about his family and the Chinese community. His mother was born in Darwin, but because his father was born in China, the authorities classified her as alien too. When, in 1939, his brother tried to join the RAAF, he was rejected on ethnic grounds. And so he joined the American Fifth Air Force. Discipline, in Frank’s family, was based on Chinese Confucianism, however he was raised in the Church of England, because the girl next door took him to the Church of England Sunday school. When the Depression set in, Frank’s father was away a lot; he had to go hawking wares, “because if you weren’t an Australian citizen you couldn’t get any Social Security”. Frank explains how the community changed after World War II. People couldn’t return to China, and fewer Chinese were arriving in Australia. At Rookwood, the graves were left undisturbed, as bodies were not ritually returned to China and the community became more permanent. Frank’s childhood was a happy one: “It was a neighbourhood. Everybody visited each other or sat out at the front door, everybody. The children would play and the elders would sit at the front door to cool down and talk. We call it home now because they were permitted to bring their families out and they settled down”.

Caveat: This video was shot on a Sony Hi 8 video recorder. It was not until 2010 that we could get the analogue tapes digitised. Despite careful storage in the intervening period there has been some deterioration in quality. While we have retained the original .mov files from the original digitization in the SRA Archive, by necessity uploaded here are .mp4 files. The video is raw and unedited, a primary source document recording the occassion.