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The Chinese and the Racism on the Goldfields
Transcript of The Chinese and the Racism on the Goldfields
Home Sweet Home...
In an attempt to limit the number of Chinese at the goldfields, a law was passed that any Chinese person entering Victoria would pay 10 pounds tax and 1 pound for a protection fee, the right to mine and live in the colony. No one entering from any other country had to pay this tax. However, this did not reduce the numbers of Chinese. They landed in South Australia and walked several hundred or even thousand kilometres to reach the Victorian goldfields!
There was ignorance about Chinese customs and culture, and the Chinese seemed very strange and very different to the European diggers. The people at the diggings were very suspicious of them and resentful of their methods of mining. The appearance of the Chinese with their pigtails and unfamiliar clothes, their habit of going barefoot and of carrying loads balanced on 2 bamboo poles, their religion, all made them a target of racism and great hatrid. Opposition to the Chinese mining claims and prospecting was widespread and it is well documented that the Chinese, who did not usually contest their status on the fields, were generally left to work over areas that European miners had already worked. They often found rich sums of gold on these leftover claims by working more meticulously which angered the European diggers even more. The Chinese were generally very hardworking and honest and were quiet and law-abiding. Local Chinese societies came into being, to advise newly arrived Chinese about how to fit in.
When they Arrived In Australia
Journey to Australia
The Chinese and the Racism on the Goldfields
At the time that news about the Australian Gold-Rush reached China in 1853, the country had been suffering from years of war and famine. In order to raise money for the fare to Australia, a man would take a loan from a local trader, agreeing to make regular repayments. His wife and children stayed behind, and worked for the trader if the man was unable to repay the money he had borrowed. To reach Melbourne, it was a journey of several months by ship in cramped conditions.
When the Chinese arrived at the goldfields, they stayed together in large teams with a head man in charge. Groups were allocated duties such as mining, cooking, or growing vegetables for the team. They worked hard and lived simply, especially as they sent money home to feed their families and repay their fare. Much of the alluvial gold was running out and the Chinese miners re-worked claims that had been abandoned and collected gold that had been missed. They preferred not to go deep underground for fear of offending the mountain gods. They also saw other opportunities to make money, and worked at other jobs around the diggings, such as washing clothes, selling vegetables they'd grown, selling cooked food or herbal medicines and so on. In 1861, there were more than 24,000 Chinese immigrants on the Victorian goldfields of Ararat, Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maryborough. There were over 11,000 Chinese on the New South Wales goldfields of Armidale, Bathurst, Binalong, Braidwood, Burrangong, Lambing Flat (Young), Carcoar, Lachlan, Mudgee, Tambaroora, Tamworth and Tumut.As the southern gold deposits were depleted, there was a corresponding drop in the number of Chinese miners in these areas. However, in the 1870s there was an influx of Chinese miners to Queensland after the discovery of gold in the Palmer and Hodgkinson rivers and in Cooktown. Chinese miners not only worked gold but also other metals such as tin, copper and wolfram.
Outcome for Australia
In a world dominated by Europeans ideology, this distinctive look was exploited by Europeans to fee their sense of racial superiority. Some Chinese reacted, often at the encouragement or insistence of their clan association, by adopting colonial European dress and manners. Others remained resolutely Chinese in appearance.
Australia's population changed dramatically as a result of the rushes. In 1851 the Australian population was 437,655, of which 77,345, or just under 18%, were Victorians. A decade later the Australian population had grown to 1,151,947 and the Victorian population had increased to 538,628; just under 47% of the Australian total and a seven-fold increase. In some small country towns where gold was found abundantly, the population could grow by over 1000% in a decade (e.g. Rutherglen had a population of about 2,000. Ten years later, it had approximately 60,000 which is a 3000% increase). The rapid growth was predominantly a result of the gold rushes and the immigration of the Chinese. This has shown the Australian nation that racism should not be tolerated and everyone should be treated the same.