Anti- Chinese Riots
Henry Bower Lane, The Buckland near the camp, watercolour, circa 1850-1860.Contributors
This item has been released by the collection holder to foster Victoria's cultural and creative life. If using, please attribute the creator of the work and the collecting institution.Copyright
Out of Copyright
Ill will towards the Chinese often spilled into violence.
From the first few Chinese arrivals on the goldfields in the early 1850s anti-Chinese sentiment swelled. Not all fellow goldseekers were unkind or unwelcoming but many European miners saw the Chinese as alien. Moreover, Chinese mining methods were very efficient, leading the European contingent to fear an 'invasion' of Chinese miners would take too much gold.
Bullying and harrassment of Chinese migrants was common on most goldfields and so were acts of petty violence. In 1854 a group of Chinese arriving at Melbourne wharf were beaten and abused, and over the next three years anti-Chinese violence by small mobs of Europeans broke out in Bendigo, Castlemaine, Ballarat, Diamond Gully, Maryborough, Campbell's Creek/Guildford, Creswick, Smythes Creek, Tarrengower, Peg Leg Gully, Spring Creek and Mount Blackwood.
The worst outbreak in Victoria occurred on the Buckland River in the Ovens Valley area of northeastern Victoria. The Ovens Valley gold rush had attracted several thousand Chinese miners. In July 1857 a violent mob of about ninety Europeans tore through the Chinese camp on the Buckland, burning tents and buildings, including a beautiful and recently built Chinese temple. The mob drove around 2,500 Chinese people from their tents, wrecking belongings, beating Chinese people with sticks and stones and killing and wounding an unknown number. The victims fled terrified through the cold winter rain, camping in a state of shock and confusion along the roadside between Buckland and Beechworth, unsure whether to return to Buckland or seek safety in Beechworth.
At least three Chinese men were found dead after the riot, but it is not known how many drowned in the Buckland River whilst fleeing, nor how many died later from wounds or from exposure to the cold. An inquest was held but few charges were laid.
By the 1860s the Chinese had again ventured out along the Buckland Valley. Chinese miners and market gardeners were a presence there until the early 20th century and rows of Chinese hut sites were still visible up to the 1970s.
With thanks to Diann Talbot for her research advice on this section.