Chin Kaw

Chin Kaw (18651922), Chinese merchant, Chinese Consular representative, philanthropist, tobacco manufacturer, community leader, was born in Shui hu, Kaiping, Taishan. He arrived in Tasmania in approximately 1879 (aged fourteen) to join his Uncle Heang who already owned a general grocery and herbal store in the Chinese tin-mining community of Weldborough. Besides helping his uncle in this shop he took up several mineral leases in the area, most likely working them with labouring help from fellow Chinese.

Kaw became known as something of a leader among the Chinese not only in Tasmania but Australia. Before Federation he assisted newly arrived Chinese to circumvent the higher poll taxes from other states, and provided them with accommodation, board and employment until their naturalisation papers were in order, when most then promptly left for other states.

In 1887 Kaw married Luei Fong, the daughter of an artist/scholar family. His return to Tasmania three years later and the subsequent arrival of his wife, who would have made one of a handful of Chinese women in Tasmania, made the headlines where she was described in the local press as a 'princess'.

By 1899 Kaw had made his way to Launceston where he established Sun Hung Ack & Co. This firm was the first in Tasmania to manufacture tobacco from Tasmanian-grown leaf. In later years he took an interest in banking enterprises (the National Bank of Tasmania), and in China he assisted materially to the construction of railways.

In 1916 he left Tasmania for Melbourne. In recognition of his efforts to his country and fellow countrymen he was awarded the highly coveted 'Scroll of Distinction' from the Nationalist Government of China.

Further reading: ADB 7; Cyclopedia of Tasmania 1931; Examiner 16, 18 November 1907; Weekly Courier, 27 April 1922.

Adrienne Petty