This simple yet poignant memorial marks the start of the last leg of the long, difficult journey Chinese migrant workers took to reach Australia’s gold mines. It stands near the spot where they first came ashore before trekking hundreds of miles to the mines.
The gold rush in Ballarat, Victoria, attracted many Chinese migrants. In 1855, to discourage this, Victoria started charging a 10-pound fee to any Chinese migrants who arrived within the state.
To avoid paying the extra tax, ships bearing Chinese migrants started landing in Robe, South Australia because it’s outside Victoria’s borders. The workers then had to walk almost 200 miles to the mines at Ballarat. It was a long, difficult journey, and many of the miners died along the way.
In all, more than 16,000 Chinese workers landed in Robe. Their arrival transformed the city’s economy. The population boomed, and soon local residents began serving as guides or starting other services to accommodate the rush of immigrants. Some used their personal boats to help ferry the new arrivals ashore while others helped escort them to the mines.
The monument commemorates the migrants. The 10-foot-tall stone bears a plaque showing images of a ship, mining gear, and Chinese workers carrying their belongings. A red “welcome gate” with beautiful calligraphy was erected on the beach behind the stone in 2017 to mark where the workers first stepped ashore.
Know Before You Go
Robe is a short diversion for travelers driving the Great Ocean Road between Melbourne and Adelaide.