The Irish influence on Ballarat
“Gentlemen and savages – Men of Ballarat and fellows of Bungaree” These were just some of the inflaming words spoken by the controversial Victorian politician C. E. Jones, at a political meeting in Ballarat, 1864. Jones was attempting to trade on the popular Old World idea of the Irish as lower-caste, illiterate and priest-ridden trouble makers who were intent on lowering the standards of this new society in Ballarat. In fact these ideas about the Irish presence in Ballarat were completely inaccurate.
The Irish were the second largest national group (the largest being the English), to influence the history of Australia during the gold rush and colonial periods. From 1851 to 1901 the percentage of the population considering themselves Irish remained at around 20%. Most of these immigrants came from the southwest counties of Clare, Tipperary, and Galway.
The Jewish contribution to Ballarat’s History
Ballarat Synagogue, cnr Princes & Barkly Streets, Ballarat. Gold Museum Collection.
“Hidden away in plain view”, that is how many people describe the location of the Ballarat Synagogue. On the main tourist route from Melbourne to Sovereign Hill, a large stone structure on a bend of road near the East Ballarat Fire Station, hints at a connection to a Jewish community in Ballarat. In fact there have been people of the Jewish faith involved actively in Ballarat’s history from the beginning of European settlement here.
From Left; Oscar Zhang, Charles Zhang and Bill Moy From the CACSB standing in front of the Chinese Temple at Sovereign Hill
On the 15th of December 2013, Charles Zhang and his son Oscar will begin to retrace the footsteps of the Chinese prospectors, who travelled from Robe in South Australia to the Victorian Goldfields. The re-enactment is planned to take 15 days, with Charles and Oscar travelling approximately 35 kilometres per day. Before they leave Ballarat on their way to Robe, Charles, Oscar and Bill Moy visited the Chinese Temple at Sovereign Hill to ask for permission and good fortune from their ancestors during their adventure. Their walk from Robe to Ballarat will also end at Sovereign Hill on Saturday the 28th of December. Charles Oscar and Bill are all members of the Chinese Australian Cultural Society of Ballarat (CACSB). Interestingly they represent different generations of Chinese immigrating to Ballarat. Bill’s Ancestors came to Ballarat during the Gold Rush. Charles and Oscar represent more recent arrivals to our city.
The Aim of the walk is to follow the route taken by the Chinese miners. Oscar and Charles will commemorate the contribution made by the Chinese gold diggers on the Central Victoria Goldfields, while promoting rural Australian towns and cities.
Pot for Incense burning with Jade talismans and a coin given to Charles with links to the Avoca Goldfileds. These will be carried on the journey.
Regular details, stories & photos will be posted on the Chinese Australian Cultural Society Ballarat website: www.chineseballarat.org.au and Ballarat Community Radio Station 99.9 Voice FM: www.voicefm.com.au. We will also attempt to keep this post updated with information about the progress of the walk.
Chinese coin from Avoca
So keep coming back to follow our intrepid adventurers on their special voyage.
The Chinese were forced to travel overland from South Australia, due to an immigration tax imposed on them by the Victorian Colonial Government. The Government were concerned by the numbers of Chinese travelling to the goldfields, and tried using taxes to stop immigration from China. You can read more about this at Heritage Australia and our previous blog: Racism and Taxes: Life for the Chinese on the Goldfields
Ballarat’s Scottish Heritage
This blog post has been summarised from notes by Sovereign Hill’s senior historian, Dr Jan Croggon on the Scottish in Ballarat. We would like to thank Jan for her contribution and hope she has more to share with us in the future.
Statue of Robert Burns, Scottish poet. Sturt St Ballarat. Gold Museum Collection
Nineteenth century Scotland was at the heart of the massive Industrial Revolution which transformed Britain, and which largely created the population pool which travelled to the Antipodes in search of gold and a new life.
EMIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA
The characteristics of the Scots who emigrated to Ballarat can be understood more clearly if regarded in the light of the world from which they came. Poverty, famine and epidemics in Scotland in the 1820s and 1830s caused the first significant Scottish emigration to Australia. Victoria was the most popular colony in which they settled. Scottish squatters and rural workers established farms, and urban settlers worked as skilled artisans and professionals.
In the Victorian census of 1854, Scots were the third largest group after the English and Irish, with 36,044 people. Within three years a further 17,000 had arrived, many hoping to make their fortunes on the goldfields. Immigration assistance schemes also swelled the number of Scottish arrivals. By 1861 the Scotland-born population of Victoria reached 60,701 – the highest level it would ever reach.
Scatterheart By Lili Wilkinson
Scatterheart sits itself between the First Fleet and the Gold Rushes, but it’s delightful fictional story encompasses the themes of fear and hope in the journey to an unknown land that are common to both periods of history. Lili Wilkinson tells the story of Hannah Cheshire, a well-born London girl who we meet in the midst of her confusion and despair over her sudden change in circumstances. It interweaves her present predicament with reflections of her life past.
Chinese migrants played a very significant role on the Ballarat Goldfields, and elsewhere around Victoria, making up approximately 20% of all males in Ballarat. They were known for being hard-working and peaceful people, however their experience of the gold rush was marred by racism and discriminatory politics.
Well written and accurately researched historical fiction can provide a useful window into the past and an accessible entry into another time for students (and for teachers!).
One such historical novel we love here at Sovereign Hill is Bridie’s Fire by Melbourne author Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin, 2003).
Bridie’s Fire published by Allen and Unwin