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Banana merchants and the Victorian CEDT Index

By Terry Young (Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria)

The Queen Victoria Market (QVM) has been a constant in my life. I shopped there as a child with my mother. My grandfather and my father were market gardeners who sold their produce to vegetable dealers at the market. I now shop there as an adult every week.

I was aware of the reliance on Chinese vegetable producers last century and recently I was reminded of their impact on the Melbourne food economy. The QVM Visitor Hub is decorated with a large photographic mural showing a crowded street full of market traders parked in the Queen St location in 1907. They are in the process of unloading produce for the market. I walk by this image every week and it was the first time I took enough of an interest to look at the detail in the photograph. 

Queen Victoria Market mural with historical photograph ‘Victoria Markets, Xmas 1907, First Arrivals’, 2021. Photographer: Terry Young

The image is called Victoria Markets, Xmas 1907, First Arrivals. It is a fascinating record of the market activity in front of Sheds A, B and C. As the mural was quite large, I could clearly see the details of the signage on the horse drawn carriages parked in the street. Two carriages took my attention. One is marked Yee Sang & Yee Shing Banana Merchants and another marked Pack Kee Banana Merchants.

Detail of historical photograph, ‘Victoria Markets, Xmas 1907, First Arrivals’, on wall at Queen Victoria Market, 2021. Photographer: Terry Young

Using the Victorian CEDT Index, I was able to search for these merchants. The first name was not listed but Pack Kee is listed as a 46 year old Chinese Fruit Merchant in 1910.

Entry in Victorian CEDT Index
[Index entry for Pack Kee, 1910, Register 1, p. 123, Victorian CEDT Index, (original data taken from ‘Register of Certificates Exempting from the Dictation Test, 1904–1914’, National Archives of Australia: B6003, 1).]

I was also able to find 39 other Chinese who registered with an occupation in the banana trade (or you can browse by the other occupations here –

I like the ability to easily search the database to inform my knowledge about Victorian Chinese whenever and wherever my curiosity is aroused. These people are no longer hidden in history.

Terry Young

Terry is a first generation Chinese Australian. As an adult he developed a curiosity about the unspoken lives of his Cantonese speaking parents. Both migrated to Australia during difficult times, personally and historically. Terry’s family research has helped shape his persona and identity. He continues to research and discover details about his ancestors and his extended family, not only for his personal satisfaction but also for future family generations.