I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Chinese Goldfields History
Anyone even remotely interested in Australian history and in particular Victorian goldfields history won't want to miss Kyneton Museum's current exhibition Chinese Fortunes, an in-depth exploration of Chinese migration to the goldfields and its impact on Australian life in the years 1851 to 1901.
A former bank building with plenty of history of its own Kyneton Museum is at 67 Piper Street. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
As word of Victoria's gold rush echoed around the world, a migration of unprecedented proportions commenced bringing men from all corners of the globe to seek their fortune. But the largest foreign group by far was the Chinese. The majority of Chinese on the goldfields were contracted labourers who had their passage to Australia paid for by a benefactor and worked to repay the debt before earning anything for themselves.
A total of 40,721 Chinese arrived in Australia during the gold rush years making up 3.3 percent of the nation's population by 1861. The vast majority though returned to China and in the period 1852 to 1889 the arrival of the 40,721 was almost matched by 36,049 departures.
Evidence of the Chinese influence can be found throughout Victoria including ceremonial burning towers like these at Wahgunyah Cemetary in the norhteast of the State. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
On the goldfields, the Chinese kept very much to themselves. They were viewed with suspicion and disdain by the majority of the European diggers and were frequently subjected to serious physical abuse.
But they possessed great spirit and determination. When the Victorian Government imposed a 10 pound per head arrival tax on Chinese immigrants, many elected to land at Robe in South Australia and walk the nearly 500 kilometres to the Victorian goldfields.
This memorial in Robe, South Australia marks the point where hundreds of Chinese were landed before walking to the Victorian goldfields almost 500 Kilometres away. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The museum, in Piper Street, is open Friday to Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM with the Chinese Fortunes exhibition running until June 24th.
Cost of entry is Adults $7.50, Concession $6.50 and children $3.50.
Whether you're a resident of the Macedon Ranges or just passing through, this intriguing exhibition offers a great opportunity to learn more about Chinese migration to Australia, particularly during the gold rush years, and to better understand the remarkable contribution the immigrants and their descendants have had on Victoria.
Kyneton is 90 kilometres north of Melbourne, just over an hour's drive via the Calder Freeway/M79. Alternatively VLine operate fast, efficient and regular train services from Melbourne (Southern Cross) to Kyneton on the Bendigo line with the trip taking 1 hour 20 minutes.
Bendigo's Chinese Dragon Museum and oriental gardens are indicative of the Chinese influence on the Victorian goldfields. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Why? Take the opportunity to learn more about Chinese migration to Australia, particularly during the gold rush years, and to better understand the remarkable contribution the immigrants and their descendants have had on Victoria.
When:Kyneton Museum is open Friday to Sunday between 11 AM and 4 PM. The Chinese Fortunes exhibition will run until June 24th.