Chinese Communities

21) Chinese Joss House

Life On The 1850s Goldfields - Not Easy For Chinese

Various Chinese societies (e.g. the Sze Yap) tried to help their fellow "strangers in a strange land", so that they could be seen to conform with European standards. These attempts to "fit in" were difficult given the backdrop of the rough conditions and often unruly early Australian gold rush days life.

In spite of this, the Chinese people were the target of prejudiced and racist attitudes and outright persecution by both European gold miners and the Australian Government of the time. The Chinese people were usually regarded as pagans and an inferior race, and were often unfairly blamed for many things not of their doing. For example, outbreaks of disease were often blamed on the Chinese.

During the Mogo gold rush days on the NSW South Coast, Chinese lived at Chinaman's Point on the Clyde River (Batemans Bay) for mutual protection, and travelled by boat across the Clyde River to "Latta's Point" and the Mogo Goldfields.

Very few Europeans were prepared to praise the Chinese for their adaptability, dignity, hard work and honesty. Overall, they were resented as much for their hard work and success as their different culture. All too often, this resentment flared into overt violence.

Life Even More Difficult With Bushranger Robberies

Bushrangers, such as the Clarke gang, robbed the Chinese as readily as they robbed the Europeans. The following newspaper article gives an interesting insight into legal proceedings on the Australian goldfields.

ROBBERY UNDER ARMS. - Article Sydney Morning Herald (NSW 16 Aug 1867)

William Bruce was indicted for that he did on the 9th July, 1866, near Braidwood, being armed, assault one Kong Ah, a Chinaman, and rob him of one scarf pin, one saddle, and six papers, the property of the said Kong Ah.

The prisoner pleaded not guilty and was defended by Messrs. Dalley and C. J. Manning, instructed by Mr Joseph Leary. The Solicitor-General prosecuted for the Crown.

Tho only evidence against the prisoner was that given by the prosecutor Kong Ah, a Chinaman, who being sworn by the blowing out of a match, and interrogated through an interpreter, deposed that he was a gold-digger, and that on the evening of the 9th July, I866, he left Braidwood for Jembaicumbene, and when he had reached a place known as the Big-hill, about three miles from Braidwood, he was stopped by an armed man with black whiskers, and by the prisoner, who was also armed. Those men took him off the road, and while the prisoner searched him the other man held a revolver to his head. They kept him in the bush for about half an hour, and then let him go. They took from him a scarf pin, which, finding that it was not gold they threw away, a number of invoices, which they tore up, and a saddle. The witness swore positively to the prisoner's identity.

For the defence a man named Roach was called who de- posed, that he resided with his father on the Molonglo River, that he went to the prisoner's house on the 8th July, 1866, after two working bullocks, which, on the following day, the prisoner assisted him to drive for about four miles along the road - and that the prisoner's house was forty miles from Braidwood. This evidence tended to show that the prisoner could not have reached the place where Kong Ah was robbed on the evening of the 9th July. Constables Woodlands and Byrne were also called, and they proved that Tommy Clarke, the outlaw, lately executed, resembled the prisoner in face ; that Pat Connell had large bushy black whiskers; and that at the period when Kong Ah was robbed Pat Connell and Tommy Clarke were in partnership.

Mr. DALLEY addressed the jury for the defence, the SOLICITOR-GENERAL replied, his HONOR summed up, and the jury, after deliberating for two hours and ten minutes, returned a verdict of "Not guilty."

There being another charge against the prisoner he was remanded.

The Court adjourned at twenty minutes before 8 o'clock p.m. until 10 o'clock to-morrow (Friday) morning.

Ah Lamb, Ah Fooh, Cong Hay, John Ah Yoke and Ah Cooee were also held prisoners by the bushranger gang.