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The Chinese-Australian Historical Images in Australia (CHIA) database is a catalogue of historical images of Chinese, Chinese immigrants and their descendants held in Australia. It primarily draws on the photographic holdings of the Chinese Museum but also includes photographs from other online archives, publications and private family collections (listed below). Digital copies of many of these images are available for research purposes.

CHIA also includes the beginnings of an encyclopaedia of Chinese-Australian history, complete with bibliography, aimed at providing contextual information for database images. This is a work in progress and we hope users will be inspired to write contributions to build this aspect of the database.

CHIA is a joint project between the Chinese Museum and La Trobe University supported by the Australian Research Council. We are pleased to collaborate with Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre (Austehc).

Official project participants

  • Sophie Couchman
  • Professor John Fitzgerald
  • Dr Jane Lydon
  • Paul Macgregor


Chinese Museum, Melbourne
Chinese Museum
22 Cohen Place
Melbourne Victoria 3000
Phone: 61+ 3 9662 2888
Fax: 61+ 3 9663 2693
La Trobe University
Asian Studies
La Trobe University
Victoria 3086
Phone: 61+ 3 9479 1315
Fax: 61+ 9479 1880


The ideas?

A number of ideas have inspired the building of this database, which has evolved over a number of years. This database aims to:

  • Acknowledge that any given photograph might have many forms (eg. Negative, print, slide, digital copy).
  • Acknowledge that different versions of the same image might be held in multiple collections.
  • Acknowledge that the meaning of a photograph might be different depending who views it, when it is viewed and in what context it is viewed.
  • Allow different versions of photographs to have developed different meanings and histories of use over time.
  • While acknowledging the shifting meanings that photographs might have provide contextual information about the photographs so that their subject matter can be better understood and interpreted.
  • Inspire more sophisticated uses of images, particularly photographs.
  • Allow for the inclusion of Chinese characters and different romanisations of Chinese names within the database.
  • Catalogue and put online the Chinese Museum image collection.
  • Provide a broader understanding of Chinese-Australian history.
  • Promote further research into Chinese-Australian history.

What's included? What's not?

The scope of the database is enormous and one of the first outcomes of the project was the positive realisation that the number of images and photographs of Chinese and their descendants in Australia was much larger than the project's resources. Decisions had to be made as the project progressed about what images to include and what work to be done on the project. This has been driven by the needs of Austehc who were designing the database, the Chinese Museum and their collection needs and those of Sophie Couchman who was simultaneously using the database to assist research her PhD thesis as well as concurrently assisting with its development.

CHIA includes samples of Chinese-Australian photographs in the online image collections of the different State and Territory libraries and a number of other major online collections. There is a strong focus on photographs from the nineteenth and early twentieth century and also particularly subject matter such as weddings, sports, archways and processions, photographs of particular families.

We look forward to other researchers and institutions contributing to the growth of the database in other directions over time. See Contributing for further information about to do this.


Under the old Wade-Giles phonetic system 'chia' ('jia' in mandarin) means 'home'. While CHIA is simply our project acronym we also hope that the images you see in our database will inspire you to think about the homes many Chinese and their descendants have made in Australia and also in China.


This website has been archived and is no longer updated. Contributing additional information/photos and correcting existing content are no longer possible.

The Chinese Museum, however, continues to collect and compile research on Chinese-Australians families for future exhibitions and research purposes. We welcome contributions to our research archive as well as donations to our collection (i.e. digital copies of photographs, memorabilia, and other objects). For more information, please visit:


With very special thanks to:

Chinese Museum

  • Bill Au
  • Christine Liao
  • Bill Liao
  • Daine Singer
  • Lorinda Cramer
  • Mark Wang

Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre
The University of Melbourne

  • Annette Alafaci
  • Joanne Evans
  • Gavan McCarthy
  • Helen Morgan
  • Ailie Smith
  • Alan van den Bosch

La Trobe University

  • Dr Peter Friedlander
  • Fiona Walsh


  • Jonathan O'Donnell
  • Russ Weakley, Max Design

Entity writers and compilers:

  • Sophie Couchman, La Trobe University
  • Rob Hess, Victoria University of Technology
  • Colin Holden, St Peter's Eastern Hill Church archive
  • Chris Lee
  • Paul Macgregor
  • Barbara Nichol, University of Melbourne
  • Amanda Rasmussen, La Trobe University
  • Lindsay M. Smith, Australian National University
  • Ian Welch, Australian National University
  • Jill Wheeler, University of Melbourne
  • Michael Williams
  • Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation project

Digital images courtesy of:

  • Chinese Museum
  • Chris Lee (private collection)
  • Golden Threads project
  • Knowledge Resource Centre, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria
  • Fay Anderson (private collection)
  • Linton and District Historical Society
  • Museum Victoria
  • National Library of Australia
  • New South Wales State Records
  • Powerhouse Museum
  • Robyn Ansell (private collection)
  • St Peter's Eastern Hill Church archive
  • Shirley Millard (private collection)
  • State Library of South Australia
  • State Library of New South Wales
  • State Library of Queensland
  • State Library of South Australia
  • State Library of Victoria
  • State Library of Western Australia
  • University of Queensland - Fryer Library

We'd also like to acknowledge the following online image databases:

  • Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation, protype image database
  • Department of Primary Industry, Virtual Exhibition
  • Golden Threads, People and Collections database
  • State Library of Western Australia, Pictures catalogue
  • Museum Victoria, Biggest Family Album
  • Northern Territory Library, Territory Images
  • National Australian Library, Pictures catalogue
  • Picture Australia
  • Powerhouse Museum, Tyrrell Collection online
  • State Library of New South Wales, Picman
  • State Library of Queensland, Picture Queensland
  • State Library of South Australia, Pictures catalogue
  • State Library of Victoria, Pictures catalogue
  • State Library of Western Australia, Pictures catalogue
  • State Records of NSW, Plague exhibition
  • University of Queensland - Fryer Library, Hume collection online