The Bakhaps

The Bakhap Award for Sculpture honours two men: Gee Sing Ge Bakhap and his adopted son Thomas Jerome Kingston Bakhap. Gee Sing Ge Bakhap was born c.1833, in Guangzhou, southern China. He travelled to the Ballarat gold fields where he met and married Margaret Geneva Hogan, and legally adopted her 2 year old son Thomas Jerome Kingston. Following the discovery of tin, the family travelled to north east Tasmania settling in Lottah, where Gee Sing Ge was a grocer and herbalist, recognising the curative properties of many Tasmanian shrubs. It is considered that he was responsible for the introduction of ground sluicing to the tin mines of north east Tasmania. Thomas (1866–1923) and his half-brother Simon Peter (1869–1918) were taught the Chinese classics and to speak fluent Cantonese and visited China several times. At Lottah, Thomas and Simon established themselves as Chinese interpreters, and Thomas taught himself Mandarin.

During an era when the White Australia Policy was in full force, Thomas Bakhap spoke out for Chinese-Australians and advocated the need for Chinese history and language to be taught in schools around Australia.

Thomas Bakhap was elected Member for Bass in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, 1909–1913; and then Senator for Tasmania in 1913. The last act in his career was spent on a fact-finding mission of the commercial opportunities in China. He produced a report from his trip detailing the "Trade Between the Commonwealth and China" which was printed in 1922. Tragically he contracted pneumonia on this trip and died the next year in 1923.

For a more detailed history of Thomas Bakhap click here.

 

Sources:

(1) ABC radio – Perspective

(2) National Museum of Australia