Chinese on the Ballarat Goldfields

Our guest speaker at the October meeting of the society was Jim Quinn from the University of Ballarat who spoke about the Ballarat Chinese. He alerted us to some amazingly detailed research into the Chinese who are buried in Ballarat - approximately 400 graves in the Ballarat Old Cemetery near Lake Wendouree and over 1000 in the Ballarat New Cemetery in Ballarat North. Numbers cannot be exact because so many Chinese were exhumed for their bones to be ritually packed and returned to their home province of Guandong.

"In the mid-nineteenth century over twenty percent of all males in the Ballarat district were Chinese. They outnumbered every other ethnic group except the English."
This quotation comes from a book published in 1992 called Fading Links to China: Ballarat's Chinese Gravestones and Associated Records 1854-1955 by Linda Brumley, Liu Bingquan and Zhao Xueru, History Department, University of Melbourne. There is an online version of this book at La Trobe University.

As the research developed, a series of databases was created containing burial, medical and inquest records of the Ballarat Chinese from the 19th century. These include Old Cemetery burials (470), New Cemetery burials (932), Ballarat Hospital admissions 1858-1880 (384) and inquests for Chinese in Victoria 1850-1880 (2041). The wonderful nature of this website is that the databases are dynamic and can be updated as contributions are received.

Highly specialised knowledge of Chinese spoken and written languages was required for attempts to correlate inscriptions on gravestones in the Ballarat New Cemetery with burial records, hospital records and inquests. Examples of this incredibly difficult exercise are given. In the course of the work to identify graves the Chinese section of the Ballarat New Cemetery was re-mapped and you will find this online as well.

One of the stories told on the site as part of the Chinese Heritage of Australia Federation Project is the family history of John ALLOO who married Scottish-born Margaret PEACOCK in 1856. An image of John Alloo's Chinese Restaurant, Main Road, Ballarat 1853 by goldfields artist ST Gill can be viewed on the National Library of Australia website.

SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) has dedicated much webspace to our multicultural history and especially to the impact of the gold discoveries on Australia.
An interactive map of Australia links to stories of gold discovery for each state and can take you right to Ballarat which owes its existence to gold.
The section called The New Gold Mountain is the gateway for the Victorian gold-seeking Chinese who first arrived in 1853.
Five links from here are entitled: Fear of the Chinese, Stereotyping the Chinese, Anti-Chinese riots and rorts, Restrictive immigration Acts and The walk from Robe.

Forgotten Faces: Chinese and the Law
This is an online exhibition at the Public Record Office of Victoria based on photographs of Chinese prisoners from the 19th Century with some background history. From here there are links to the Golden Dragon Museum at Bendigo and to Ballarat's Sovereign Hill which has reconstructed a goldfields Chinese village.

Further research into the Chinese population of Ballarat could be based on the Ballarat East Petty Sessions court registers (1858-1921) which are now fully indexed and available as two sets of microfiche. This index consists of approximately 125 000 names including a large number of Chinese. More details can be found as a featured link from

Jennifer Burrell: jburrell@ncable.net.au



Created : 27 October 2005
Last Modified : 7 April 2006
Email : jburrell@ncable.net.au
URL : http://users.ncable.net.au/~jburrell/link/10chinese.htm