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William Yang is a third-generation Chinese Australian whose grandparents migrated to Australia during the 1880s gold rush. He grew up at Dimbulah on the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland and describes his upbringing as one in which his Chinese ethnicity was suppressed and denied.
Yang studied architecture at the University of Queensland, and in 1969 he moved to Sydney to become a playwright. He took up social photography as a way of making money and soon gained entry into the city’s theatrical and artistic circles. His photography during the 1980s and early 1990s documents the social and artistic life of Sydney.
In 1983, Yang met Yentsoon Tsai, a Chinese teacher from Taiwan. Their friendship led Yang on a quest to discover his Chinese culture and heritage. He changed his name from the anglicised ‘Young’ to ‘Yang’, and he began researching his family history.