1994, 2 x 55 Minutes
Based on the books by Eric Rolls.
Flowers and the Wide Sea is the story of one of Australia's oldest immigrant communities - the Chinese. Chinese Australians tell of their ancestors and of themselves. Archival film and photographs rarely seen before show life as it is and was in China, Hong Kong and Australia over a period spanning 150 years.
The first of this two part series, The Sojourners, traces the first wave of Chinese migrants, who in the 19th century, were driven by famine, war or simply poverty to leave their villages and come to Australia as shepherds. In the 1850s thousands more arrived to seek their fortunes in the goldfields. Some stayed to establish trading companies, restaurants, laundries and market gardens.
In spite of the Chinese contribution to the emerging nation, anti-Chinese feeling ran high in Australia during the years leading up to the turn of the century. The sentiments revealed in the anti-Chinese riots of the goldrushes were picked up by trade unionists and politicians. After Australia's federation in 1901, the first Act of the new Australian Parliament restricted immigration. The day of the sojourners was over.
The second part of the series, Citizens, examines the plight of those Chinese who remained in Australia after the 1901 "White Australia" Act was in place. Regulations designed to disqualify Chinese from citizenship, ownership of land or businesses, reunion with their families or service in the armed forces encouraged many Chinese to return to China. Then when Australia, like much of the world, refused to recognise Communist "Red China", China responded by lowering a "bamboo curtain" which effectively severed contact between overseas Chinese and their homeland. Dispossessed of their homeland, Chinese Australians remained under suspicion in their adoptive land. It was only in the 1970s, when Australia recognised China and swept away the last vestiges of discriminatory policies, that the Chinese were really accepted into Australian life. They had stood their ground in white Australia. Now the ground had shifted - white Australia was no more, finally the Chinese could belong.
A Film Australia National Interest Program.© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Director: Tony Stevens
Running Time: 2 x 55 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Australian History; History: Migrant Experiences; Immigration; Australian Migration Law; English; Human Rights; International Relations; Politics; White Australia Policy.