Freelance writer and blogger from Brisbane. Follow my social media, photography, technology and food blogs at www.acarrick.com
Published March 15th 2016
Rediscover the Chinese history of Ararat
It's well known that the Victorian town of Ballarat has a history rich in gold mining, but it's not as well known that the town of Ararat about an hour's drive from Ballarat was actually founded by Chinese gold miners.
The Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre tells of history of Chinese gold mining in the region and the reason the town was settled. Around 1857, there was a levy imposed on arrivals to Victoria by boat. In order to avoid this levy, in 1857 many Chinese hoping to strike it rich travelled Port Robe in South Australia and then walked all the way to existing gold mining towns like Ballarat or Bendigo. On their way they discovered a sizeable deposit of gold where Ararat is now, later referred to as the Canton Lead (named after the region of China most came from). Following its discovery the population of this new gold field grew to the thousands.
The entrance to Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre
The museum includes various sections and hallways each telling a part of the Chinese heritage in the area. At the beginning of the museum there is a short video of a re-enactment story about the journey from China to what became Ararat. In the next room is a collection of Chinese artefacts and plaques about Chinese culture.
Chinese artefacts in a display cabinet
The museum then opens up to a couple of hallways documenting the journey from China and people's experiences in the gold fields.
One of the hallways in the Heritage Centre
The Centre is interactive too - as well as reading and watching, there is a little artificial mine for the kids to walk through, a gold panning area where you may be able to find and collect small samples for a souvenir, and a Chinese language learning room with computers and paper where you can learn basic phrases and a few characters.
Interactive Chinese Language Room
After the interactive sections the museum continues with more history and Chinese artefacts including some beautiful traditional dresses on loan.
Be sure to check out the gift shop either before or after your look around, it's worth a look at their wares even if you're not going inside the museum itself. They have many Chinese cultural good available for purchase from practical tea pots and chopsticks to decorative statues and mirrors.
Be sure to check out the view from the second story of Centre - you can see a nice view towards the city, and a closer view of the authentic Chinese tiles on the roof. When the Centre was built, China sent 3 traditional tilers to build the roof authentically with Chinese tiles.
The Traditionally Tiled Roof of the Gum San Heritage Centre
There is plenty of car parking across the road in the their own car park with a pedestrian island between the car park and the Heritage Centre. I recommend you take the accessible ramp on the way down so you can see the the statues and plaques - some of them reference history from inside the museum so you'll already have some context. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for concession with an audio guide available for $1.