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Gooey, Poon John


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    Weight lifter from Taiwan, 1950s - 1960s, by John Warlow Studios

greengrocer and gardener
Alternative Names
  • Gooey, Poon John
  • Pan Wei (pinyin)
  • Poon Gooey
  • 潘魏 (simplified Chinese characters)


John Poon Gooey described himself as a market gardener and later greengrocer. He was a devoted Christian who spent most of his time in Australia living in Horsham. He was naturalized in Victoria in 1899 aged about 24.

In 1900 Poon Gooey had been living in Victoria (Warrnambool, Ballarat and Horsham) since 1894 and working as a gardener. He left Australia in order to marry Ham See in China. Both were later successful in obtaining exemption from the Victorian 1890 Chinese Act.

In December 1910 he again obtained permission for his wife to enter Australia for 6 months. When this period expired, a further six month extension was granted. In June 1911 their first child was born, followed by a second child in January 1913. Due to public support and the turmoil in China as a result of the 1911 Revolution, Mrs Poon Gooey's initial stay of six months was extended to two and half years. However eventually the whole family left Australia in May 1913.

The case drew enormous attention as it involved the principle of White Australia on the one hand and humanity on the other. The current Labour Government refused to relax the Immigration Restriction Act fearing it would lead to a large increase in Chinese immigration. However the Australian public at large were sympathetic to the family. They felt the Act was cruel and too stringent. The case received particular support from the different church denominations in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia who showed indignation at the decision to deport Mrs Poon Gooey. After the family left in 1913 the citizens of Cooma, the Shire of Patrick Plains, Singleton, the Municipality of Bega, the Shire Council of Tinbenbar, the Port Stephens Shire Council and the Municipality of Picton all passed resolutions to the Minister urging the law be amended to allow naturalised British subjects to have their wives in Australia.

The Chinese in Australia also protested against the government's stand. The Tung Wah Times urged the Consul-General to take a firm stand against the government. The Chinese Times blamed the Immigration Restriction Act for separating husbands and wives. Samuel Wong (in Melbourne) and Ping Nam (in Sydney) both spoke out about the case and Chinese residents in Brisbane presented a petition against the treatment given to Mrs Poon Gooey. The Chinese population in Geelong wrote to the Peking Government in 1911 urging them to resist the Federal government's actions against the family. If it had not been for the outbreak of war soon after the departure of the Poon Gooey's the Chinese in Sydney and Melbourne would have organised themselves to press for a relaxation in immigration laws for wives and relatives.

Sources used to compile this entry: Yong, C.F., New Gold Mountain: The Chinese in Australia 1901-1920, Raphael Arts, South Australia, 1977.

Prepared by: Sophie Couchman, La Trobe University

Archival Collections

National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office

  • Item 6 Various documents relating to late 1880 to early 1900 migrants [Includes samples of certificates of character reports of immigration officers, passports, photograph and documents relating to Poon Gouey/Gooey], c. 1892 - c. 1921, MP56/12; Department of Home and Territories, Central Office - Records and Passports Branch; National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office. Details

Published Resources


  • Sleeman, John H. C., White China: An Austral-Asian Sensation, Sydney, 1933. Details
  • Yong, C.F., New Gold Mountain: The Chinese in Australia 1901-1920, Raphael Arts, South Australia, 1977. Details

Journal articles

  • Yarwood, Alexander, 'The "White Australia" policy: Some Administrative Problems, 1901-1920', vol. 7, no. 2, 1961, pp. 245-60.', Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 7, no. 2, 1961, pp. 245-260. Details


  • Jones, Paul, 'Alien Acts: The White Australia policy, 1901-1939', PhD thesis, Department of History, University of Melbourne, 1998. Details

Online Resources

  • Bagnall, Kate, 'A legacy of White Australia: Records about Chinese Australians in the National Archives', in Paper presented at the Fourth International Conference of Institutes and Libraries for Chinese Overseas Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou China, 10 May 2009, National Archives of Australia, 2009, Details


Unidentified Chinese garden
Weight lifter from Taiwan
1950s - 1960s