GUEST SPEAKER CHARLES ZHANG
In 2009 Charles Zhang and his 17-yr-old son Oscar walked from Robe in South Australia to Ballarat, a distance of 438 km in 14 days. They followed the route of more than 15 000 Chinese goldrush immigrants who chose to come overland to avoid the Victorian £10 poll tax. As described in See Yup Gold Miners In Australia by Henry Gunstone, "… there were twenty to thirty miles of Chinaman in single file, … they were chanting ‘Ballaraat, Ballaraat, Ballaraat …" This was their destination and if they became lost at least they had one word of English to set them in the right direction.
BDGS members were treated to a pictorial account of the trying journey through Penola, Dergholm, Casterton, Coleraine, Cavendish, Dunkeld, Willaura, Ararat, Buangor, Beaufort and Burrumbeet to Ballarat. Despite the hardships of summer heat, water rationing, prickles and lugging their camping equipment, the trip was made enjoyable by the goodwill and practical assistance of people in the towns along the way. This was due to the reconnaissance done by Charles in making contact with local historical societies and other groups. Publicity by Voice FM and Facebook helped the townsfolk to join in the walk for part of the way and share stories of the Chinese presence in their area. There were historical plaques, way-marked gum trees, market gardens and shops established by miners who passed that way. In particular at Ararat (Gum San) Chinese miners were well represented among those who worked the alluvial goldmine from 1863-1872. At 20km wide and 70km long this was considered at the time to be the biggest of its kind in the world.
Charles is President of the Chinese Association of Ballarat. He would like to hear from any descendants of the many thousands of Cantonese immigrants who walked from Robe and settled in Ballarat in the 1850s and 1860s. Your message would be forwarded to Charles by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org