This small Chinese church is tucked away in Queensberry Street, Carlton, between the campus’ of RMIT University and the University of Melbourne. It is surrounded by warehouses and student accommodation and at the end of the street is the grand Royal Exhibition Buildings. It is easy to miss. It has recently come to my attention that this charming and historically significant Church of Christ Chinese Mission hall is up for sale. In all likelihood it will be demolished.
It was built c1905 specifically for the Chinese Mission by the Church of Christ on vacant land and still operates. Early converts were Harry Louey Pang (an influential leader in the Melbourne KMT) and Samuel Wong (influential in Melbourne and then in Sydney, also in the KMT). When Samuel left Melbourne for Sydney he was gifted an engraved silver scuttle and scoop by the Church of Christ congregation. These two men along with William Hing and Arthur Lee Mow were members of the Chinese Christian Union which lobbied for the rights of Chinese Australian in the early twentieth century.
The Chen Ah Kew family have had links with the church that span generations. Chen Ah Kew’s eldest daughter, Mary Yeung (nee Chen who was also married in the Wong Yen family), converted to Christianity after attending school at the church. After seeing a vision of the Holy Ghost and Jesus in 1910s she became a passionate Pentecostal. She established a mission and girls school in the Chen family Wangchong village, gave lectures around Australia to raise funds to support the mission and was involved in mission work in Hong Kong. Mary’s niece, Mabel Wang (nee Chen) remembered playing the organ that is still in the building – ‘It was always out of tune!’ Her son, Mark, remembers running down the side lane to go to Sunday school. The Hing Yee and Louey Gung families also have memories of attending classes there.
I’d love to learn more about any other family and community connections to the hall. Do any early photographs of it survive? I’d like to write a short history about it. A small group have been in some discussions to try and find some ways to save it. You can private message or email me if you would like to discuss.
- Judith Brett and Mei-Fen Kuo, Unlocking the History of the Australasian Kuo Min Tang 1911-2013, Australian Scholarly Press, 2013.
- Mei-fen Kuo, Making Chinese Australia: Urban Elites, Newspapers and the Formation of Chinese-Australian Identity, 1892-1912, Monash University Press, 2013.
- C.F. Yong, The New Gold Mountain: The Chinese in Australia 1901-1921, Raphael Arts Pty Ltd, 1977.
- Denise Austin, ‘Mary Yeung: The Ordinary Life of An Extraordinary Australian Chinese Pentecostal – Part I and Part II’, Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, 2013, vol.16, pp.99-137.