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Opium

Opium

In this scene, notable Sydney merchant Mei Quong Tart is delivering a lecture on the evils of opium to a crowd outside Sydney Town Hall

The use of opium was a big issue in the Chinese community. Here, notable Sydney merchant Mei Quong Tart is delivering a lecture on the evils of opium to a crowd outside Sydney Town Hall.

The anti-opium crusade

Many Chinese immigrants brought the habit of opium smoking with them from China. This contributed to the animosity displayed by European miners towards the Chinese on the goldfields. Opium was not illegal at this time and from 1871 to 1905 the amount of opium imported into Australia increased fivefold to keep up with consumption.

Many Chinese people in Australia became destitute because of their addiction to opium smoking. Anti-opium societies were formed and Chinese community leaders and Chinese newspapers were actively involved in the anti-opium crusade. In 1883 Mei Quong Tart delivered a petition with 4000 signatures to the Executive Council, effectively launching the crusade in New South Wales. Quong Tart gave talks to both Chinese and European Australians calling for a ban on opium imports.