Until four years ago there was no formal memorial to the Chinese who came to Ballarat and the Goldfields. There were many signs to show their presence, mostly in the gravestones in Ballarat’s two cemeteries.
A few years ago a Chinese Historical Society toured the Gold Fields and cleaned the stones. They painted the characters and I hope someone out there can tell me the significance of the Green and the red.
In this furnace paper ‘money’ was burnt and the smoke, rising to heaven would pay for the spirits to look after the soul of the dead person.
The Chinese miners were in most cases indentured to their landlord back in China. He would have paid their passage to Australia and in return would take the first year’s gold. The poor fellow in Ballarat had little option but to send the gold home because his family were being held in the village as a kind of hostage.
The story gets worse from here on. I will try to be brief. Some of you will have read my post on Bushie’s Blog about “The Chinamen’s Track https://wp.me/p94I28-4a If you haven’t go over and take a look. It is relevant.
The track went through the bush at the edge of our farm.
I will begin where I should have begun. The gold rush in Victoria attracted more than migrants from Europe and the USA. It also attracted workers from Melbourne and the neighbouring state of South Australia, and sailors arriving in Melbourne would leave ships crewless and head for the diggings. There was also a fairly solid racist attitude to the ‘Barbarians’ from China and the Victorian Government tried to discourage migration from there by imposing a ten pound head tax on any Chinese arriving in Melbourne. This was a very large amount back then and to make sure that it was paid the onus was on the Master of the Ship that transported them. Therefore the money was required to be paid by the miner before he boarded the ship in Canton.
This lead to the next deed of infamy. Because the South Australian government was concerned by the number of workers leaving that state they were not interested in collecting the £10 for the Victorian Govt. As a result many ships captains decided to forgo going to Melbourne and instead stopped at a small settlement on the SA coast and dropped their cargo there.
So they came down the Western coast of Australia and stopped at the first land they saw in a small sheltered bay where the town of Robe now sits. The Chinese were pointed to the east and told that gold was just over there. It was actually about 400 kilometres.
The ships’ owners and the captains made a fortune. Most turned around and went back for more and some of the wealthy families of England and the USA have this on their conscience. (If they have one.)
There were riots and the Chinese were not treated well but as time went by, many went back to China. Some stayed and their descendants have contributed to the country in many ways.
But there is more. Sometime ago, and no one can tell me when, because no one wants to take responsibility, some workmen at the Ballarat old cemetery needed some material to repair a drain. Below is the drain as it appears today.
At the bottom, behind where I am standing, there is a patch that I will show you in detail.
Can you see how they have used some bluestone? Can you see some writing on it? Lets have a close-up.
Three years ago I contacted the local newspaper and explained that some headstones had been broken and used to line a gutter. Many people said, “Oh Dear, How terrible!” and words to that effect. The paper published a front page article. Nothing was done about it. When I took these photos last week I mentioned it to the Cemetery caretaker and he had never seen them but was suitably concerned ans said, “Oh Dear, How terrible!” and words to that effect.
But the City of Ballarat has finally erected a permanent memorial. I don’t like it. But it must be good because it cost a lot of money and a professional artist designed it.
There are three rows of black slate that have been etched. It looks for all the world as if someone has written on the slate with chalk. I give you one or two examples.
Tomorrow, or when I get around to it, I will continue the Gold story. Eureka!