Asian Australian History

Racism On The Bendigo Goldfields And How It Impacted On The Early Chinese

Whether you are a history buff or not, most of us know about the history of the Chinese during The Australian Gold Rush period of the mid 1800s. This history is pretty much the same in the USA, Canada and NZ where the Chinese traveled to all these countries ( mostly from Southern China) in the search for a gold fortune. But what they probably didn’t expect was the racism which happened in Australia and in all the aforementioned Western countries which led to murders, lynchings and victimisation. It also made countries like Australia install Chinese Exclusion legislation and later the Immigration Restrictions Act during Federation – also known as the “White Australian Policy”.

Image via ABC News and supplied by Dennis O’Hoy to ABC News: A young Dennis O’Hoy (front, centre) with his family. 

But if you think about it the anti-Chinese racism happening back then has never really stopped and over the past few years, the resurgence has been in your face style with the COVID-19 racism impacting on all Asian Australians as well as the debate around the growing influence of China. Anyways, back to the purpose of this piece, ABC News recently did an article on the Chinese history of Bendigo, which was one of the Gold Rush towns. They focus on the O’Hoy family (Louey and Kate), who first came to Australia in 1860 from Canton.

Image via ABC News

84 year old retired university art teacher, Dennis O’Hoy, the grandson for Louey and Kate spoke about his family’s history in Bendigo, the racism and how this created a united and cohesive early Chinese community (via ABC News):

“They had their own name for Bendigo — ‘Dai Gum San’, translated it means Big Gold Mountain,”

“Bendigo became one of the richest goldfields in the world.”

“My grandfather, Louey O’Hoy, was one of the originators of the Chinese Association and Chinese procession,” 

“Grandfather became quite successful, he started many, many shops in Sandhurst, as Bendigo was then known.”

“In 1901, with the Federation of Australia, the Immigration Restriction Act was brought in,” 

“My mother, Que Lan’s wife, was only allowed to stay in Australia for two years, so living in Bendigo and every couple of years she’d have to go back to China.”

Image via ABC News: Stone tablets mark 950 Chinese graves at Bendigo’s White Hills Cemetery.

There is a Chinese Museum in Bendigo called the ‘Golden Dragon Museum’ – if you happen to be in Bendigo, please make a visit and know the history. There is also a Chinese Museum in Melbourne, now in Sydney and in many other parts of Australia, so go and visit one in your state, city or territory.

Images via ABC News

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