Film and TV

Chinese Australians Have Been Around For Centuries: Benjamin Law’s 2 Part ABC Documentary Explores This

When I was 10 and in grade 5, my dad told me that there were Chinese in Australia during the Gold Rush period of the mid 1800s. The next day I went to school and told the substitute teacher who was teaching our class that day ( our regular teacher was off) what my dad told me as we were learning about Australia’s Gold Rush history. The teacher looks at me and says:

” Don’t spout such lies, that didn’t happen, no Chinese person came to Australia for the Gold Rush”…

Boy was she wrong, but after that for the next 8 – 9 years I believed what that teacher said – bear in mind this was way before the internet and Google was a thing. It was really after I finished all my formal schooling and entered University that I learned that indeed the Chinese traveled to Australia during the mid 1800s in search for gold, and also traveled to the US, NZ and Canada for the same reason, and that there is a rich and long history of the Chinese in Australia. It made me wonder why I was brainwashed by that teacher for so long and I began to learn and get involved in things which looked at this history.

And where now we have the internet and Google to get information on this history, it is still seldom known in Australia that indeed the Chinese and Australia has and continues to have a long relationship. Nowadays it is more on the sinophobia side of things, but a lot of it is via pure ignorance. Anyways, writer Benjamin Law’s 2 part documentary “WALTZING THE DRAGON” explores this history and takes a look at the Chinese -Australian relationship.

Image via Sydney Morning Herald

Set to air on ABC on July 30, WALTZING THE DRAGON (via Mumbrella):

The series takes a fresh eye to the “sweet and sour” of the China-Australia relationship, digging deep into the overlapping histories of the two countries, unpacking the present and looking to the future of Australia’s waltz with the dragon.

Benjamin, a Queensland born and bred, self-described “ABC” (Australian born Chinese) who speaks “yum-cha Cantonese” investigates his own Chinese-Australian heritage and asks how his family’s journey fits in with those of the other 1.2 million Chinese Australians – a question that is not just relevant to him, but to all Australians as the nation’s ties with China continue to deepen.

Over two episodes, Benjamin first goes road-tripping with his wonderfully hilarious mother Jenny, and then his ambitious entrepreneur father Danny. They embark on a fascinating journey to trace the Chinese-Australian history, from long before the days of the gold rush, to Bob Hawke’s post-Tiananmen Square Massacre immigration intake, to Crazy Rich Asians. As Benjamin gains more of an understanding of how the two countries are entangled and China’s increasing sway over Australia’s fortune, so too will the viewer through his insightful and often witty narration.

Law explores this relationship with his parents – Jenny and Danny looking at what binds the relationship and what is the significance of Australia to the 1.2 million Chinese Australians who live in the country. Law also looks at the history of the Chinese and Indigenous Australians – which is something which is not written or discussed often when this history is mentioned. It definitely looks interesting and something which I will be watching for sure! So Aussies everywhere, and those like me living overseas and who has a VPN, please tune in to watch “WALTZING THE DRAGON” on ABC on July 30!

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