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Period: This Generation »


Commentary on: Asia and Queensland »

Prof Andrew Jakubowicz.

Text Commentary

Asia encompasses a very large geographical area, and many dozens of nations and cultures. This diversity of Asia means that the engagements that Queensland has are complex and demanding. Queensland has had a long relationship with Asia, ever since Indonesian fishermen and trepang gatherers made regular contact with the Indigenous people of the north. Governor Bowen, in the 1860s, already envisioned a colony with most of its links to Asia. Asian indentured labourers would form its workforce. While colonial experiments with Chinese, Singhalese, Malays, South Sea Islanders and Japanese indentured labour were flirted with throughout those early decades, that dream never eventuated,. Queensland however has been closely involved with Asia- through the mining industries, through the migration and “sojourning” of workers in the pearl-shell, sugar and banana industries – and through trade with Asian countries.

There has been, perhaps, a too persistent fear of Asia in Queensland. From the agitation of racial populists like the 19th century editor of the Boomerang William Lane and the recent versions of these views by Pauline Hanson, to the persistent exercise of legislative restrictions over ‘alien’ populations, historical records show that previous generations of Queenslanders have consistently shared a fear of invasion and racial contamination.

In modern times Queensland has a major economic engagement with numerous Asian nations, and this may be paired with diverse and burgeoning cosmopolitan communities throughout the state. It is taken for granted that Asian cuisines and food culture are now an everyday component of the Queensland diet. Asian pop culture, art and religious values have increasing visibility in our art galleries and cultural festivals; in the proliferation of places of worship. Throughout the state, from Caboolture to Townsville, from Sunnybank to West End, we find expanding culturally-rich cosmopolitan communities. Asian cultures and peoples have an important historical place as part of Queensland’s multicultural diversity.