A forced separation of mother and son: the case of Mun Kee

In 1916 Mun Kee aka Herbert Hooklin aka Victor Hooklin (invisbleaustralians.org) was denied re-entry to Australia because of the racial profiling of him conducted by Dr Charles W Reid, Chief Quarantine Officer-General of the Australian Quarantine Service in Sydney. (Dr Reid died during the Greycliffe ferry disaster in Sydney Harbour on 3 November 1927.) Mun Kee was a son of Theresa Hooklin from Tingha, on the Northern Tablelands in New South Wales. He was born out of wedlock with no birth certificate. Theresa’s other sons had Eurasian appearances whereas Mun Kee displayed none, which led to Dr Reid suspecting that his attempt at entry into Australia was fraudulent. Indeed an elaborate racial profiling system had been formulated by the Australian authorities under the aegis of the Emigration Act 1910 to ensure that when dealing with cases of inadequate or apparently confounding documentation, a person with no display of the slightest European features could be excluded from Australia under the White Australia Policy. In the case of Mun Kee, he left Australia for China as a five-year-old boy in 1890, way before the Immigration Restriction Act was introduced in 1901 (Couchman & Bagnall, 2015, pp. 224-226).

Theresa Hooklin and Mun Kee were forcibly denied reunion due to application of racial profiling. The involvement of the Quarantine Service in his case was probably based on the medical expertise of Dr Reid, when medicine was tied up with pseudo-science on race. Quarantine came under the control of the Department of Trade and Customs.

Mun Kee was sent back to China on board SS St Albans, arriving at its last port of call in Australia, Thursday Island, on 28 April 1916, where his permanent departure was recorded. For complete records on this incident, see digitised National Archives resource at http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=9414122.


Bagnall, Kate and Tim Sherratt. Invisible Australians: living under the White Australia Policy. invisbleaustralians.org.

Bagnall, Kate. Anglo-Chinese and the politics of overseas travel from New South Wales, 1898-1925. In Couchman, Sophie and Kate Bagnall (Ed.). Chinese Australians: politics, engagement and resistance. Leiden: Brill, 2015, pp. 203-239.