Kevin was a social worker working at International Social Services in Richmond in 1993 when a seminal international conference, “Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific”, was held at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne. By 1999 Kevin had published his first book, “Collected Papers on the Yet Foy Family of Queensland”. His exploration of his family’s contribution to the history of north Queensland had led him down a new road. He went on to enrol as a postgraduate student in the Department of Asian Studies at Latrobe University.
Kevin presented his research at a second significant event, the “Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation Conference” at the Chinese Museum in 2000. He made connections with conference attendees of similar family backgrounds. Ongoing community research activities were encouraged by conference organisers. Subsequently Kevin Wong Hoy, the late Nancy Kwong, her sister Edna Cooper, the author and others formed the Victorian Chapter of the Family History Group in association with the Chinese Historical Society of Australia in NSW. In December of the following year CAFHOV was formed by the same small group. Kevin’s passion for Chinese Australian history and his ability to articulate, to energise and to organise gave CAFHOV a strong foundation.
By 2002 Kevin was well into his research. He was interviewed by ABC radio and spoke about his family’s roles in the communities of north Queensland. He also published “Yip Hoy and his family: A Monograph”. The following year he gave a presentation on the Chinese of north Queensland at the 10th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry in Melbourne.
Studying Chinese Australian history at Latrobe University was broadening Kevin’s interests beyond the familial. He gave a talk for the Hotham History Project at the North Melbourne Library in 2003 on the Chinese miners in the Buckland Valley and in 2004 contributed to the Journal of Australian Colonial History with an article about Thursday Island and its Chinese community.
Kevin continued to lead CAFHOV throughout the decade. He encouraged the production of “Secrets, Silences and Sources”, the book CAFHOV published in 2005 and wrote the chapter “Chinese-Australian history vs. huaqiao history: Chinese in north Queensland” for it. He was also working hard to gain funding for geophysical exploration of the fate of the Chinese miners caught in the 1857 Buckland Riot.
In 2006 Kevin’s career in history took two more steps. His Masters thesis “Becoming British subjects 1879-1903: Chinese in north Queensland” was accepted by Latrobe University. In addition he co-authored an article on Chinese agitation on the Victorian goldfields for the book “Eureka: Reappraising the Australian legend”. Kevin also co-authored an article for the Journal of Chinese Australia on the Chinese temple dedications in the Buckland Valley.
By 2007 the Buckland Chinese Australian Heritage Project was completed. Kevin had been a key driving force. He and fellow members of CAFHOV attended the July 2007 ceremony where the monument dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the 1857 riot was unveiled. In the same year Kevin contributed an essay on the Buckland riots to the book “Deeper Leads: New Approaches to Victorian Goldfields History”.
After leaving CAFHOV in 2009 Kevin continued to focus on his Queensland interests as the joint editor of “Rediscovered Past: China in northern Australia” (2009). He also became the President of Chinese Heritage in Northern Australia Inc. and promoted the developing history of the area. In 2010 he published “Miscellaneous – a Further Collection of Stories by Descendants of the Yet Foy Family of Queensland” and received a grant from the Northern Territory government to research the history of the Chinese cook Hung Bak Cheong, (celebrated by Aeneas Gunn in “We of the Never-Never”). His last book “Cheon of the Never-Never” was launched at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne in December 2012, with many friends and supporters present.
A month later, in spite of his illness, Kevin attended the gala unveiling of the Hap Wah commemorative plaque at the Chinese New Year Festival in Cairns. This was the culmination of a community history project Kevin facilitated. The nineteenth century Hap Wah sugar plantation was the first major agricultural venture in the Cairns area. Kevin’s father was born in Cairns in 1927.
This tribute to Kevin only touches on some of the contributions he made in the last decade of his life to the education of Australians about their country’s history. He was passionate about this task and persistent in his efforts to achieve it. Well done Kevin. You have made a difference. It was a privilege to have known you.
(Image source Philippa Rayment/The Epoch Times)