Chinese-Australian Debutantes

This website has been created to promote and provide information about the author’s historical research into the Melbourne Young Chinese League’s debutante balls and Sydney Chinese community’s ‘dragon’ balls.

Young Chinese League debutante balls:

From the 1920s up until the late 1980s, the Chinese community in Melbourne held an annual debutante ball for young Australian girls of Chinese descent. A number of social clubs were set up for young Chinese Australians to meet and socialise in a supervised environment. The first social club to organise debutante balls, the Chinese Progressive Association, was established in the 1920s.

In 1932 the Chinese Progressive Association and another club, the Chinese Athletics Association merged to form the Young Chinese League. The League continued to organise debutante balls from 1938 until 1988. The Young Chinese League debutante ball took place every year at St Kilda Town Hall. Originally to be part of the Chinese set, the girl had to be of Chinese descent, but this changed in later years.

Alma Quon would train the young girls and their partners to dance as well as provide lessons in etiquette and presentation. She trained every debutante set until the last ball in 1988. Up until the 1960s Alma Quon & her Joybelles played the music at every ball.  The debutante girls would finally be presented to the Consul for the Republic of China during the ceremonial part of the ball, usually held in September.

(Adapted from the entry “Young Chinese League debutante balls” on the chia website of the Museum of Chinese-Australian History Inc)

Sydney ‘dragon’ balls:

A similar event to the Melbourne debutante balls, the dragon balls were the main fundraising event for the Chinese community and were held in Sydney from 1938 till the mid-to-late 1970s. As in the case of the YCL balls, the balls raised funds which were usually sent to China for various worthy causes.  The Powerhouse Museum’s China Heart site provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of the balls through the oral histories of several participants, and can be accessed here.

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