Reenacting the Walk from Robe
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Copyright with Charles Zhang.
In May 2017 the Victorian Government made a formal apology to Australian Chinese for discriminatory government policies during the era of the gold rush.
The apology came after a group of community members, including some descendants of original Chinese Victorian goldseekers, re-enacted the Great Walk from Robe in South Australia to the goldfields of Victoria. The re-enactment was performed in honour of the 160th anniversary of the first walk of Chinese to the Victorian goldfields from the South Australian port of Robe in 1857. Chinese migrants seeking gold in Victoria were forced to disembark in South Australia and New South Wales after the Victorian government imposed a discriminatory and hefty £10 tax per Chinese passenger landing in Victoria. The Chinese were the only nationality subject to the tax.
The port of Robe, close to the South-Australian Victorian border, became a popular dropping off point for Chinese goldseekers after 1857. It’s estimated that 17,000 Chinese walked from Robe to Victoria in a gruelling 500 kilometre overland trek, during which some perished.
On the 6 May 2017 a team of community walkers, including descendants of original Chinese goldfields migrants, walked eastwards from Robe through Lake Hawdon, Penola, Casterton, Coleraine, Hamilton, Dunkeld, Skipton, Linton, Smythesdale and Ballarat before arriving on the steps of Victorian Parliament House on the 25 May 2017.
Premier Daniel Andrews made a formal apology to Chinese Australians for the discriminatory policy decisions of the Victorian Government in the 1850s.
The Great Walk from Robe Re-Enactment was organised by the Chinese Community Council of Victoria, Australia in collaboration with regional Chinese Australian community groups including the Chinese Australian Cultural Society of Ballarat.
The walk was inspired by a re-enactment undertaken by Ballarat resident Charles Zhang and his son Oscar in 2013, who walked from Robe to Ballarat carrying simple backpacks and camping gear. Charles, who migrated to Australia from China in 1989, wanted to understand what early Chinese migrants had experienced in the 1800s. Charles Zhang was also part of the 2017 re-enactment team.
This photograph depicts a moment in the 2017 re-enactment when walkers passed under a rail bridge near Bacchus Marsh in central Victoria. The trekkers had been walking for two weeks and were only three days away from their final destination of Parliament House, Melbourne.