A multicultural Wray Avenue precinct… over a hundred years ago?!

This is a bit of a sequel to my last blog. When I was looking into the history of the Hampton Buildings, I found that there were quite a few business proprietors from an Asian background in its early years.

I find it quite interesting, especially given that, at the current time, there aren’t any businesses run by people from an Asian-background in this end of town. At the same time, I think that people around this area would probably claim to value multi-culturalism.

At the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, there was always a business person from Asian background occupying premises in the Hampton Buildings and there were several other businesses in the area with Asian proprietors

This is amazing given the mood in Australia at this point in history, with the Immigration Restriction Act (1901), commonly know as the White Australia Policy. Australia’s inaugural Prime Minister Edmund Barton introduced this legislation “to secure the future of our fair country against the tide of inferior and unequal Asians arriving from the north.” There was clearly significant racism towards Asian people in our country.

Staniforth Smith, a Senator from Western Australia at the time had said that “[i]f the question is not dealt with boldly and fearlessly now when the Asiatic nations are waking up, there will be an influx of coloured people which will mean an alteration in our national destiny.”

This Asian presence ended by the 1930s and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t returned. On reflection it seems sad that we’ve now lost the diversity of background that our street once had, though at a time when it wouldn’t have been valued.

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