Mary Meu Loong was born in Shekki, Zhongshan in China’s Pearl River Delta on 7th June 1918. Mary was the seventh child born to a family whose usual residence was Carlton, Melbourne in Australia’s then capital. Carlton was also where Mary’s parents has been married and where all her older siblings had been born before the family moved to Shekki (石器, Shiqi) in April 1916.
The Loong family was a Chinese Australian family under the White Australia policy and they knew it. Mary’s father had been in Australia since 1897 and this meant that he and his wife Yuet Kai had ‘domicile’ status, meaning they could remain, travel and return to Australia on the basis of their residence in Australia before the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act was passed. They could never become Australian citizens (at that time British subjects) however. Mother and father therefore travelled on CEDT’s (see No. 1) while their Australian-born children travelled by registering their birth certificates proving their entitlement to re-enter their country of birth despite having non-white faces. But what of the China-born Mary?
Mary’s father obtained this certificate of his daughter’s birth and sent it via a Melbourne contact to the Customs Office with the request the birth be registered. Meu Loong’s hope of course was that this would enable his family to return to Australia intact when and if the time came. In this he was at first successful. The file, while noting that registration of births was a State matter and would not in any case include the China-born, did acknowledge Mary’s birth and did promise her entry on return. In doing so Attlee Hunt, the head of the Department, was exercising the wide discretion the Immigration Restriction Act gave him.
However, this discretion could work both ways and Meu Loong was not in a hurry to move his family back to Melbourne. Instead, he continued to request extensions of the CEDTs (they were limited to three years) and even registered another daughter – Christiana – in 1922. These extensions and his second China-born daughter were all granted until 1925 when ‘the Minister’ declared no more. At this stage the evidence of the files of the White Australia bureaucracy peter out. We do know that at least two of Mary’s Australian-born siblings did return to Australia but as for her parents, herself or her young sister the consequences of the White Australia policy are as yet unknown.
Source – NAA: B13, 1920/20201 Secretary Home and Territories – re registration of birth of Mary Mew Loong daughter on Hong Quong and Mew Loong. [Note: while spelt ‘Mew’ here the spelling ‘Meu’ is used in all other correspondence.]