Chinese residents faced institutionalised discrimination and daily racism.
Chinese miners were harassed by elements of the European community. Violence, bullying, bashings, name-calling and cruel practical jokes were common. Claim-jumping, where a group of miners would take over someone else's profitable claim, was considered the worst of poor form in the European community. However claim-jumping of Chinese mines was almost encouraged in some quarters, making Chinese miners vulnerable and exposed to theft.
Institutional discrimination took the form a series of punitive taxes on entering Victoria and then on taking up residence, while restrictive legal requirements impinged on where Chinese could stay.
From 1855 the Chinese were taxed a ten pound fee to arrive in Victoria by ship, and from 1857 additional annual residents' fees of between 4 and 6 pounds were imposed on Chinese on top of the poll tax.
These taxes were heavy, particularly when we consider the 1854 Eureka rebellion took place over the cost of a monthly 1 pound 10 shillings tax which was then considered exorbitant.
As the nineteenth century wore on the public expression of anti-Chinese sentiment was commonplace.
Taxes, social segregation and publicly-sanctioned racism had a direct effect on Chinese entrepreneurs, limiting their capacity to earn a living wage. By the 1870s when gold was becoming harder to find many Chinese immigrants lived in poverty and distress. There were high rates of suicide and mental illness amongst the Chinese population.
Ultimately in 1901 a federated Australia would form on the basis of a White Australia policy, excluding Chinese immigration and in some instances refusing naturalisation to those who had made a life here.
The image here from Melbourne Punch is a classic expression of anti-Chinese stereotyping. It was created around the time of the introduction of a new, additional tax on Chinese walking overland into Victoria. Chinese at this point were already taxed on arrival into Victoria by ship and taxed to reside in Victoria. They were the only nationality required to pay such taxes. Chinese Victorians mounted a sustained campaign against the taxes. The Melbourne Punch illustration portrays a villainous-looking miner in Chinese costume with pick saying 'we want pay the tax', satirically comparing the miner to the famous English peasant revolt leader Wat Tyler.