Rare Book Lecture 2022
This lecture offers glimpses into the life and career of Melbourne Law School graduate, William Ah Ket, Australia’s first barrister of Chinese origin.
William’s story is told through the reported cases in which William appeared and the coverage of those cases in newspapers such as The Argus. The lecture also discusses the judiciary and legal profession during William’s times and the ways in which both official law reports and the newspapers contributed to the dissemination and popularisation of the law.
About William Ah Ket
William Ah Ket was Australia’s first barrister of Asian heritage or ethnicity, born in Victoria in 1876.
William was particularly active in the fight against racial discrimination and appeared in many ‘public interest’ cases. He fought against the requirements of the 1907 Factories (Employment of Chinese) Act, which discriminated against Chinese residents, and successfully opposed legislative amendments in 1904, 1905 and 1907 which would have specifically discriminated against Chinese residents in the furniture industry.
An alumnus of the University Of Melbourne, William was a co-founder of the Australian-Chinese Association and one of two delegates from the Chinese community in Australia to attend the opening of the Chinese National Parliament of 1912.
In 1913-14 and 1917, William served as acting Consul-General for China in Melbourne.