Made in Chinatown: Chinese Furniture Factories in Australia, 1880–1930

Made in Chinatown: Chinese Furniture Factories in Australia, 1880–1930
Peter Charles Gibson


This thesis explores Chinese furniture factories operating in Australia over the period from 1880 to 1930, concentrating on Sydney and Melbourne. Established in the wake of the Australian gold rushes of the 1850s and 1860s by migrants from the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong and their descendants, these factories became an integral part of Australia’s furniture industry. Owing to a vision of Australia as a bastion of ‘white’ industry and labour, Chinese furniture factories became the focus of numerous racialised political campaigns and legislative restrictions. This thesis is an examination of how Chinese furniture manufacturers and workers navigated these conditions. Guided by manufacturers’ and workers’ own accounts of their activities drawn from previously untapped archival sources, this thesis challenges current views on Chinese overseas enterprise and labour. I contend that Chinese Australian furniture manufacturers and their employees were more adaptable, and that the influence of ‘White Australia’ was less pervasive, than most histories would suggest.


Peter Charles Gibson

Defended in


PhD defended at

University of Wollongong, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry




Global Asia (Asia and other parts of the World)