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Isolated and homesick

Isolated and homesick

This scene depicts Chinese men sitting in groups. Some appear to be deep in thought, perhaps homesick for the families they left behind

The goldfields of Australia presented a strange and unfamiliar world for the Chinese miners. Here we see Chinese men sitting in groups. Some appear to be deep in thought, perhaps homesick for the families they left behind.

After the gold rush

In the 1890s there were about 36,000 Chinese-born people in Australia, mostly living in New South Wales and Victoria. After the gold rush many stayed in rural areas and took up farming. Others turned to new mining enterprises such as tin-mining on the border between Queensland and New South Wales and in north-eastern Tasmania. Some Chinese settlers ran small businesses in towns and cities and many turned to market gardening, relying on skills and knowledge built up over centuries in China.

Many Chinese men had come to Australia to make enough money to support their impoverished families in China and then return home. They found themselves isolated within Australian society as they had limited knowledge of the English language and Western customs. Another factor contributing to their loneliness was that Chinese women were not allowed to migrate to Australia. All-male Chinese communities were treated with suspicion by Anglo-Australians.