New film and digital exhibition celebrates Victoria’s Chinese goldrush history

New film and digital exhibition celebrates Victoria’s Chinese goldrush history

New film and digital exhibition celebrates Victoria’s Chinese goldrush history

An ambitious online project called Many Roads brings together the collections of eighteen Victorian cultural organisations, both metropolitan and regional, to tell the story of the Chinese on the goldfields of Victoria.

In the 1850s thousands of Chinese journeyed to the fabled goldfields of central, northern , northeastern and western Victoria. ‘The gold was what drew them here,’ says Anita Jack, General Manager of the Golden Dragon Museum and great grand daughter of a goldrush-era Chinese migrant. ‘Here in Bendigo at the peak of the gold rush a quarter were Chinese. The other three quarters were people from America, Europe, New Zealand, all across the world. It was a very multicultural time.’

Towns such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Ararat, Maryborough, Castlemaine and Beechworth featured thriving centres of Chinese-language activity with shops, temples, grocers, fruiterers, doctors, theatres and circuses servicing the bustling goldfields communities.

The digital story Many Roads canvasses the discrimination the Chinese faced and the famous overland treks the Chinese were forced to take to get to Victoria, but also the various positive ways the Chinese contributed to the economy and culture of Victoria. ‘On one hand there’s racism, there’s poll taxes and very challenging circumstances’ says Professor Keir Reeves, Director of the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History at Federation University Australia, ‘but on another, people are going into business ventures with European miners. They’re just getting on with it and working their way around some of the injustices they encountered.’

digital gallery featuring a hundred images of historical artefacts, documents, photographs and illustrations depicting Victorian Chinese life is a highlight of the project. The story also contains a specially commissioned eleven minute documentary film featuring curators, historians and Chinese Victorian descendants, two extended audio interviews and one extended video interview with key experts, and six essays written by Victorian historical experts.

The project was commissioned by Culture Victoria, an online platform that shares the stories held by collecting organisations across the state. It was produced by Ballarat-based production company Wind & Sky Productions in collaboration with the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, the Gold Museum- Sovereign Hill Museums Association, the Golden Dragon Museum Bendigo and the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre Ararat.

The story is freely available to watch, show and share via the Culture Victoria portal.