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Sym Choon: Changing Fortunes in White Australia

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by Annette Vandersluis (subscribe)
I love to travel and some time ago discovered I also love to write, combine this with my husband's photography and we get to share it all with you. Please visit us at www.facebook.com/brucevandersluisimages
Event: -
Learn of the struggle of early Chinese immigrants
Migration has been a massive part of Australian culture, right from the beginning. It is thought that Aboriginal people migrated to the north-west coast of Australia between 65,000 and 40,000 years ago and then many thousands of years later, the British landed on Australian soil and migration became mandatory for what we would now see as petty crime.

It was only a few short decades later in the mid-1800's that gold was discovered and Australia's migration profile changed forever, as people came from many parts of the world to take advantage of the gold rush.

In 1891, Sym Choon (John) and So Yung Moon immigrated from Guangdon province in southern China to South Australia and a family dynasty was born which would eventually span most of the twentieth century. With four Australian children, the family had the hard work ethic of many immigrant families of the time and one of South Australian's most memorable retail dynasty's was built. The Sym Choon's soon became an integral part of the South Australian economy. This remains evident today with stores such as Miss Gladys Sym Choon, Mr Choon and Gladys' Corner in Rundle Street and Miss Gladys on Sea at Aldinga.

sym choon, Gladys sym choon, so yung moon, john sym choon, miss Gladys sym choon, mr choon, glady's corner, rundle street, Aldinga, chinese immigration, immigrants. White Australia policy, retail dynasty, multi-culturalism, migration museum
Sym Choon Family. Photo: Migration Museum


Life for immigrants during the early years, however, was not easy. Chinese immigrants found it difficult to assimilate into mainstream society and although they were generally peaceful and industrious, resentment amongst the wider community was felt because of their different customs and traditions. Instead of embracing multi-culturalism, early Australians feared cultural differences.

Discriminatory legislation against immigrants lead to protests as the 'White Australia Policy' (Immigration Restriction Act) banned Asian immigration and unfair taxes were imposed specifically on Chinese people, regardless of whether or not they were Australian born or naturalised. Despite this, the Sym Choon's managed to build a retail dynasty we are still able to enjoy today.

sym choon, Gladys sym choon, so yung moon, john sym choon, miss Gladys sym choon, mr choon, glady's corner, rundle street, Aldinga, chinese immigration, immigrants. White Australia policy, retail dynasty, multi-culturalism, migration museum
Sym Choon Family. Photo: Migration Museum


From Tuesday 30 January to Sunday 22 July 2018, the Migration Museum located at 82 Kintore Avenue, Adelaide is presenting a temporary exhibition dedicated to the Sym Choon family empire. The exhibition explores the legacy of the Sym Choon family and demonstrates their contribution to the cultural diversity of South Australia.

The exhibition is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily and admission is FREE.

sym choon, Gladys sym choon, so yung moon, john sym choon, miss Gladys sym choon, mr choon, glady's corner, rundle street, Aldinga, chinese immigration, immigrants. White Australia policy, retail dynasty, multi-culturalism, migration museum
Photo: Migration Museum


The Migration Museum is a short stroll from the Adelaide CBD, just head down the hill along Kintore Avenue from North Terrace. The Adelaide Train Station and North Terrace tram stop are an 8-minute walk along North Terrace. To plan your journey by public transport, please go to Adelaide Metro. On street parking is available along Kintore Avenue and Victoria Drive, however, this is paid and metered.

Further information is available at the event page .
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Why? Learn about the Sym Choon Dynasty
When: Tuesday 30 January to Sunday 22 July 2018 10 am to 5 pm daily
Where: Migration Museum, 82 Kintore Avenue, Adelaide
Cost: FREE
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