Unearthing a 19th Century Chinese Kiln... agriculture.... Many Chinese had experience with agriculture and were well-suited to the new occupation. By the end of the nineteenth century approximately one third of all Chinese in Victoria were engaged in marketing gardening. There were close ties between market..., many miners were drawn away from Bendigo by news of gold elsewhere in Victoria, Australia and New Zealand. As mining became less profitable, market gardening became a common Chinese occupation, with miners adapting their agricultural skills learnt ...
When gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851, stories of treasures of mythical proportions quickly flowed across the world. Desperate to support their families, Chinese men turned to the new opportunities available at ‘Tsin Chin Shan’ - the land of the New Gold Mountain. The majority of Chinese migration to the Bendigo goldfields occurred during the mid-1850s when 16,260 males and one female arrived at Guichen Bay in South Australia and walked overland to Victoria.
By the end of the Bendigo gold rush, many miners were drawn away from Bendigo by news of gold elsewhere in Victoria, Australia and New Zealand. As mining became less profitable, market gardening became a common Chinese occupation, with miners adapting their agricultural skills learnt in China to Australian conditions.
From the 1850s, up to 1,000 Chinese populated an area called Ironbark Chinese Camp. It was reported in 1859 that the large camp had greengrocers, butchers, barbers, doctors, gambling houses, a wine shop, and a joss house. That same year the A’Fok, Fok Sing and Company constructed their brick kiln near the southern end of the camp. The kiln was in operation until it was abandoned in 1886, when the site was transformed into a market garden. The camp area was occupied by Chinese people from the 1850s for at least a hundred years.
In 2005, a section of the mid 19th century Chinese brickmaking kiln was unexpectedly discovered. To determine the condition and extent of the kiln, Heritage Victoria archaeologists conducted a preliminary excavation, with support from an expert in South-east Asian kilns, Dr Don Hein, and support from numerous students and volunteers.
The excavation provided an insight into the size of the kiln, how it operated and a vivid illustration of the transfer of Old World technology to a new country. The A’Fok, Fok Sing and Company kiln is the only known example of a Chinese brick making kiln outside of China. In addition to the kiln, numerous artefacts related to the camp and its activities were discovered, including a variety of food jars, handmade gardening tools, buttons, combs, bowls, gambling tokens, and Clydesdale horseshoes (the horses were used to plough the fields).
The archaeologists covered the excavated section of brick kiln with sand and plastic to protect its fragile fabric. Another excavation is required to uncover the kiln’s working floor and investigate its flue and firing chamber. Only then will we be able to tackle the multitude of questions that still remain to be answered.
The kiln is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. For more information on the kiln or other heritage sites visit The Victorian Heritage Database
The Welsh Swagman... agriculture...Joseph Jenkins moved around Victoria, working as an agricultural labourer. Many men were required to harvest grain and hay before these tasks were mechanised. This photograph was taken near Lake Bolac in Victoria. Negative: glass. ...
Joseph Jenkins was a Welsh itinerant labourer in late 1800s Victoria.
Exceptional for a labourer at the time, Jenkins had a high level of literacy and kept detailed daily diaries for over 25 years, resulting in one of the most comprehensive accounts of early Victorian working life.
Itinerant labourers of the 1800s, or 'swagmen', have become mythologised in Australian cultural memory, and so these diaries provide a wonderful source of information about the life of a 'swagman'. They also provide a record of the properties and districts Jenkins travelled to, particularly around the Castlemaine and Maldon area.
The diaries were only discovered 70 years after Jenkins' death, in an attic, and were in the possession of Jenkins’s descendants in Wales until recently, when they were acquired by the State Library of Victoria in 1997.
Stories of Women on the Land... From the grinding stones of Australia’s first farmers, Wagga quilts, butter pats and recipe books to family photographs, garden tools and agricultural equipment – women’s farm work is frequently found in museums. The contribution of women ...
From the grinding stones of Australia’s first farmers, Wagga quilts, butter pats and recipe books to family photographs, garden tools and agricultural equipment – women’s farm work is frequently found in museums. The contribution of women to Australian agriculture has a rich and very deep history. Yet these stories have been unacknowledged and continue to be undervalued.
The nature of women’s farm work is often rendered invisible because much of it is intangible and ephemeral, is characterised by relationships and oral tradition, and dismissed as just ‘domestic’ work when in fact this work is what has often sustained families, farms and communities. The layers of invisibility are even deeper for migrant and Indigenous women.
There has also been a long history of official barriers to recognising women’s work on the land. Farm women were deliberately omitted from the 1891 Victorian Census. Women were excluded from agriculture courses up into the early 1970s. It wasn’t until 1994 that women were legally recognised as farmers, prior to this they were defined as ‘non-productive "sleeping" partners’. And, It is only in recent years that scholars have finally acknowledged the 40-50,000 years of Indigenous knowledge and practice in complex systems of agriculture and aquaculture.
Victorian museums are a treasure trove of untold stories about the extraordinary lives of farm women and how they have shaped our land and rural communities.
Wimmera Stories: Murtoa Stick Shed, Enduring Ingenuity... agriculture ...
Colloquially known as the Stick Shed, the Marmalake Grain Store Wheat Storage Shed is the largest building in Murtoa, out on the Wimmera plains between Horsham and St Arnaud.
The Stick Shed is a type of grain storage facility built in Victoria during the early 1940s. The Marmalake / Murtoa Grain Store No.1 was built in 1941-42 during a wheat glut, to store wheat that could not be exported during World War II. It is the earliest & last remaining example of this particular grand Australian rural vernacular tradition.
The Stick Shed is 265 metres long, 60.5 metres wide and 19-20 metres high, supported by 560 unmilled mountain ash poles. Its vast gabled interior space and long rows of poles have been likened to the nave of a cathedral.
The Stick Shed demonstrates Australian ingenuity during a time of hardship, it was added to the Victorian Heritage Register in 1990.
Find more stories and photographs about the Stick Shed on the Way Back Then blog.
John Teasdale – Chronicle of a Country Life... agriculture ...
These little films from Victoria's Western Plains are about the actual and the everyday.
They have no hint of sensationalism in them. They are plain and utterly honest. They tell us about tractors and farming machinery. About fire and flood and snow. We glimpse Anzac Day and are touched by the irony of people remembering in a time and place few people remember or think about today. But there is no sentimentality in these films either. They are just plain good. - Martin Flanagan.
John Teasdale (1936 – 2004) was a farmer at Rupanyup in the Victorian Wimmera. He was also a keen and highly accomplished cinematographer, filming consistently for over 50 years to create a long-term record of working life on a family farm and of community life in a particular part of rural Victoria.
When television arrived in Australia in 1956, John successfully applied to the ABC to become a 'stringer' cameraman, shooting regional footage that was frequently included in state-wide news broadcasts and in segments produced particularly for regional viewers. John continued in this role for thirty years, until changing technology eventually made the role of 'regional stringers' obsolete.
The Teasdale film collection constitutes a nationally significant record of working and community life in a small Australian dry-land farming community, reflecting enormous changes in farming practices as well as transformations in the character and scale of community life in and around Rupanyup. At a time when many dry-land farming communities are actively reinventing themselves as their underlying social and economic structures change dramatically, John Teasdale’s films provide a critical point of reference and affirmation.
Artist and filmmaker Malcolm McKinnon, with the support of John Teasdale’s family, is undertaking ongoing work to interpret and celebrate this rich and resonant archive.
Savoy Ladies Group... agriculture ...
The Italian community of Myrtleford, in the picturesque Ovens Valley in alpine North Eastern Victoria, arrived mainly to work in the tobacco industry which once thrived in the area. The region now has a distinctive Italian-Australian culture with settled second, third and fourth generation Italian families.
Tobacco farming was a lonely experience for many of the Italian women who migrated to Myrtleford. Unlike their husbands, the women stayed largely on the farms and lacked social contact outside of their immediate circle. Once their children grew up and mechanisation changed the labour requirements on the farms, women were frequently on their own.
The Myrtleford Savoy Ladies Group was founded in 1983 by nuns concerned about the social isolation of women in the area. It has been a great success, forming a network of companionship amongst women of Italian heritage to this day.
Cultural Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users of this website are warned that this story contains images of deceased persons and places that could cause sorrow.
Drought Stories... agriculture ...
“The social impact it has is huge, but the footy club survives," says Charlie Gillingham, mixed farmer from Murrabit.
In this story the community talks about drought: its social impact, resilience, changes to farming practises, changing weather patterns and water trading.
The median annual rainfall of the Wimmera and northern plains of Victoria is 420mm. But this median does not convey the deluges that sometimes double the figure, or the dry spells that can halve it. Like semi-arid places elsewhere, the climate cycle of this region is variable.
Aboriginal people have had thousands of years to adapt to the fluctuations, whilst recent settlers are still learning.
The introduction of the Land Act of 1869 accompanied by the high rainfall La Niña years of the early 1870s brought selectors to northern Victoria and the Wimmera. A series of dry years in the 1880s initiated storage and channel projects to assist them to stay.
Irrigation was introduced in 1886 to settle the northern plains and was expanded under closer settlement legislation. The drought years from 1895 to 1902 came to be known as the Federation Drought. Water supplies dried up completely in the El Niño years of 1914 and 1915 and people took the opportunity to picnic in the empty bed of the River Murray.
Drought hit again during World War Two, and then in the period 1965-8. The drought of 1982-3 was short but devastating. Our most recent drought, lasting more than a decade, broke late in 2010 with extensive flooding.
Policy responses have changed over the years and with the recent onset of human induced climate change, continual adaptation will be required.
In 2009, the History Council of Victoria captured resident’s experiences in the project titled Drought Stories: a spoken and visual history of the current drought in Victoria. There were two aims to the project: to create a historic record of the experience, and to strengthen community capacity in rural and regional areas through telling and listening to local stories.
Two types of collections were produced: Drought Stories Local Collections, held by historical societies, and the Drought Stories Central Archive, a selection of interviews held by the State Library of Victoria.
The History Council of Victoria believes that the project material provides a rich resource to assist researchers understand Australian society at a crucial and revealing stage of adjustment to the Australian environment.
Legislation and other land records are held at the Public Record Office Victoria.
Made in Bendigo, Cold Beer!... agriculture ...
In 1857 at the height of the gold rush, with people pouring into Central Victoria from all over the world, three brothers from Denmark – Moritz, Julius and Jacob Cohn – founded a small cordial factory in the booming town of Bendigo.
They went on to build an empire and, through introducing lager, which is served cold, to the country, changed the drinking preferences of Australians.
Cordial was a necessity at the time as water was considered unpalatable. The Cohn cordial products were successful and the brothers went on to produce other staples such as fruit preserves. The Cohn Brothers were canny businessmen and at the peak of their success Cohn products were sold across the country and exported to the United Kingdom and Asia. The brothers went on to hold prominent positions on the local Council, and were part of the group that founded the Bendigo Land and Building Society, which became the Bendigo Bank.
Traces of the impact that Cohn products had on the daily lives of Australians, particularly those in Central Victoria, can be found in vintage bottles, wooden crates and signs that have been collected and preserved.
The legacy of their business and civic activities are told through interviews with their descendent, Helen Bruinier, Bendigo Art Gallery Curator, Sandra Bruce, and Frank Barr, the sign painter of the Cohn’s Cordial sign in Bridge Street, Bendigo.
Chinese Australian Families... agriculture ...
Dreams of Jade and Gold: Chinese families in Australia's history
From the 1840s onwards, Chinese people have come to Australia inspired by dreams of happiness, longevity and prosperity - of 'jade and gold' in a new and strange land. For most of that time, Chinese people in Australia have been predominantly male. Most of them were temporary sojourners who came to earn money for their families back in the village - most did not intend to settle in Australia.
Despite the predominance of male sojourning, a small proportion of Chinese men in nineteenth-century Australia brought their wives and children to live with them, or married here. As Australian-born children of these families grew to adulthood, their parents would seek brides and grooms on their behalf amongst other Chinese families in Australia.
The majority of post-1905 Chinese brides of Chinese-Australian sons were never able to settle here. Some children were born in China or Hong Kong. Some were born in Australia. Families like this were split for decades, until immigration laws were relaxed.
In the nineteenth century, many of the Chinese men who wanted wives in Australia married or lived de facto with non-Chinese women. At least 500 European-Chinese partnerships are estimated to have occurred before 1900.
Despite repeated waves of racism and official discrimination from the 1840s to the 1970s, a sizeable number of families of Chinese background have put down roots in this country.
In 1973 the Whitlam government abolished racist provisions in immigration laws. Since then, the number of ethnic Chinese migrants has increased dramatically. They have come primarily as family groups - not as sojourners, but as permanent immigrants. They come not only from China and Hong Kong, but also from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, as well as from further afield. The Chinese are now a highly visible and generally accepted part of the Australian community of cultures.
The text above has been abstracted from an essay 'Dreams of Jade and Gold: Chinese families in Australia's history' written by Paul Macgregor for the publication The Australian Family: Images and Essays. The full text of the essay is available as part of this story.
This story is part of The Australian Family project, which involved 20 Victorian museums and galleries. The full series of essays and images are available in The Australian Family: Images and Essays published by Scribe Publications, Melbourne 1998, edited by Anna Epstein. The book comprises specially commissioned and carefully researched essays with accompanying artworks and illustrations from each participating institution.
Post-War Europe... In 1945, Australian Prime Minister Chifley lead the Labor Party to power in Canberra and sought to change the national focus from agriculture to industry. His government established the Department of Immigration, which soon introduced a policy ...
In 1945, Australian Prime Minister Chifley lead the Labor Party to power in Canberra and sought to change the national focus from agriculture to industry.
His government established the Department of Immigration, which soon introduced a policy of financially supporting migration to Australia. Due to the 2nd World War, large numbers of displaced people and refugees that took up this opportunity. Most came from Great Britain and Europe and on arrival were provided accommodation in hostels or transition camps in return for a commitment to provide labour on government funded projects for a period of two years.
These personal stories produced as part of the ACMI Digital Storytelling program recount the journeys of people in the Post War Immigration Scheme.
Discover the story of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War, from primary sources at the State Library of Victoria's Ergo site : - Australia & WWII
Isaac Douglas Hermann & Heather Arnold
Carlo Catani: An engineering star over Victoria... The taming of the Great Swamp, situated at Gippsland’s gate-way, opened up thousands of hectares to agriculture and settlement in the burgeoning colony of Victoria....The Melbourne International Exhibition, an International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Agricultural and Industrial Products of all Nations was held at the Exhibition buildings in Carlton which was specifically built to host this event. Over ...
After more than forty-one years of public service that never ended with his retirement, through surveying and direct design, contracting, supervision, and collaborative approaches, perhaps more than any other single figure, Carlo Catani re-scaped not only parts of Melbourne, but extensive swathes of Victoria ‘from Portland to Mallacoota’, opening up swamplands to farming, bringing access to beauty spots, establishing new townships, and the roads to get us there.
Women on Farms... of wheat symbolizes agriculture and growth. The image is encircled by the sun, which suggests a universal spirituality that encompasses us all." - From the Beechworth Gathering 2001 Program ...
In 1990, a group of rural and farming women met in Warragul for what was to be the inaugural Women on Farms Gathering.
A group of local women had developed the idea while involved in a Women on Farms Skill Course. It was to prove inspirational, and the gatherings have been held annually ever since, throughout regional Victoria.
The Women on Farms Gathering provides a unique opportunity for women to network, increase their skills base in farming and business practices, share their stories and experience a wonderful sense of support, particularly crucial due to the shocking rural crises of the last decade. Importantly, the gatherings help promote and establish the notion of rural women as farmers, business women and community leaders.
The relationship between Museums Victoria and the Women on Farms Gathering is a model of museums working with living history.
Jary Nemo and Lucinda Horrocks
Collections & Climate Change... areas which were warmer and drier today. However the study could not rule out non-climatic threats also influencing the rat’s survival such as red foxes and feral cats, inappropriate fire regimes, habitat loss, fragmentation and change due to agriculture ...
The world is changing. Change is a natural part of the Earth’s cycle and of the things that live on it, but what we are seeing now is both like and unlike the shifts we have seen before.
Anthropogenic change, meaning change created by humans, is having an impact on a global scale. In particular, human activity has altered the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the world’s climate to change.
Already in the state of Victoria we are seeing evidence of this change around us. In the natural world, coastal waters are warming and bringing tropical marine species to our bays. Desert animals are migrating to Victoria. Alpine winters are changing, potentially putting plants and animals at risk of starvation and pushing species closer to the margins. In the world of humans, island and coastal dwellers deal with the tangible and intangible impacts of loss as sea levels rise, bush dwellers live with an increased risk of life-threatening fires, farmers cope with the new normal of longer droughts, and we all face extreme weather events and the impacts of social and economic change.
This Collections and Climate Change digital story explores how Victoria’s scientific and cultural collections help us understand climate change. It focuses on three Victorian institutions - Museums Victoria, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Parks Victoria. It looks at how the information gathered and maintained by a dedicated community of researchers, curators, scientists, specialists and volunteers can help us understand and prepare for a hotter, drier, more inundated world.
The story is made up of a short documentary film and twenty-one examples highlighting how botanical records, geological and biological specimens and living flora and fauna provide a crucial resource for scientists striving to map continuity, variability and change in the natural world. And it helps us rethink the significance of some of Victoria’s cultural collections in the face of a changing climate.
Speed, Style, Spirit: The Rob Roy Hillclimb... of that name. The name had already become well known through the breeding of the Shetland ponies with which one of the sons, Mac won blue ribbons at the Melbourne Royal Agricultural Show. Only one month before the LCCA were to conduct their opening meeting ...
"We have at last discovered a venue for a hillclimb par excellence. I cannot tell you about it in this issue but .... This I can promise you; that when the news is released, hillclimb enthusiasts will set to work on their cars with great zest".
The Car, October issue, 1935
In 1935, members of the Light Car Club of Australia inspected a property in Christmas Hills, some thirty kilometres north-east of Melbourne, known as Clinton's Pleasure Grounds, a picnicking venue which included the Rob Roy Shetland Pony Stud, a swimming hole, tennis courts, a cricket and football field, tea room and dance hall.
Their mission was to establish a Hillclimbing venue. Hillclimbing, a speed event in which drivers compete, one at a time, on an uphill course against the clock, is one of motorsport’s oldest events; the first was held at La Turbie near Nice, France, in 1897.
Opening on February 1, 1937, the Rob Roy Hillclimb was the first purpose-built Hillclimb in Australia. Cut out of the bush, it included an uphill half-mile, graded dirt road, a judges box and telephone boxes at the start and finish. In 1939, the track was sealed and became one of only three bitumen-surfaced purpose-built hillclimbs in the world, the other two being the Shelsley Walsh and Prescott courses in the UK.
The Rob Roy Hillclimb has a special place in Australia’s motoring history, with eight record holders going on to become Australian Grand Prix winners and one – Jack Brabham – a triple F1 World Champion. The roll call of other drivers who displayed their skills at the Rob Roy includes Harry Firth, Stan Jones, Lex Davison, Bill Patterson, Doug Whiteford, Peter Whitehead, Reg Hunt, Diana Davison Gaze, Tony Gaze and Len Lukey.
The Rob Roy Hillclimb was more than a racing event, it was a culture. Connected to Formula One racing, celebrities, champion drivers, patrons, collectors, and prestige and iconic cars, the Rob Roy had an aura of glamour, and club meets were social occasions, with drivers adhering to collar and tie dress codes and picnickers fashionably attired.
Nevertheless the cars were central. Over the years Bugattis, Jaguars, MGs, Falkenbergs, Oldses and Altas have competed with Australian makes such as Holdens, Fords and Elfins, from road cars to specialist cars. Many Australian cars started or developed their racing history at Rob Roy, including the Chamberlain, Maybach, BWA, Wyliecar, Klienig Special, the Walton JAP, and numerous other Australian Specials.
The Specials were modified and home-built cars. Hillclimbs make particular demands – lightweight cars with loads of torque are ideal – and so engines were upgraded, bodies stripped, cars were made up of the most suitable parts or whatever one had access to. The Specials were evidence of the culture of creativity and passion that surrounded the Hillclimb. Many cars, some pre-war, and modified constantly over time, have passed from driver to driver along with their history, to compete to this day.
In 1962, bushfires ravaged the Rob Roy, and it lay unused for another 30 years until the MG Car Club of Victoria secured a lease on the property and faithfully restored the track to host a bustling schedule of Hillclimb events. Since 1993, the Rob Roy Hillclimb culture – the drivers, the cars, the inventive mechanics and the enthralled daytrippers – thrives in the Christmas Hills.
Sources: Leon Sims, A history of Rob Roy Hillclimb - 1937 to 1961 - The Hill, The Drivers, The Cars. And, the MG Car Club of Victoria
Wind & Sky Productions
Many Roads: Stories of the Chinese on the goldfields... to southern Chinese agricultural techniques. Pictured is a lone Chinese sluicer photographed in Bendigo, in north-central Victoria, in 1898. This photograph dates to quite late in the gold era, well after the mid-century peak. Many people continued to dabble ...
In the 1850s tens of thousands of Chinese people flocked to Victoria, joining people from nations around the world who came here chasing the lure of gold.
Fleeing violence, famine and poverty in their homeland Chinese goldseekers sought fortune for their families in the place they called ‘New Gold Mountain’. Chinese gold miners were discriminated against and often shunned by Europeans. Despite this they carved out lives in this strange new land.
The Chinese took many roads to the goldfields. They left markers, gardens, wells and place names, some which still remain in the landscape today. After a punitive tax was laid on ships to Victoria carrying Chinese passengers, ship captains dropped their passengers off in far away ports, leaving Chinese voyagers to walk the long way hundreds of kilometres overland to the goldfields. After 1857 the sea port of Robe in South Australia became the most popular landing point. It’s estimated 17,000 Chinese, mostly men, predominantly from Southern China, walked to Victoria from Robe following over 400kms of tracks.
At the peak migration point of the late 1850s the Chinese made up one in five of the male population in fabled gold mining towns of Victoria such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Beechworth and Ararat. It was not just miners who took the perilous journey. Doctors, gardeners, artisans and business people voyaged here and contributed to Victoria’s economy, health and cultural life. As the nineteenth century wore on and successful miners and entrepreneurs returned home, the Chinese Victorian population dwindled. However some chose to settle here and Chinese culture, family life, ceremony and work ethic became a distinctive feature of many regional Victorian towns well into the twentieth century.
By the later twentieth century many of the Chinese relics, landscapes and legacy of the goldrush era were hidden or forgotten. Today we are beginning to unearth and celebrate the extent of the Chinese influence in the making of Victoria, which reaches farther back than many have realised.
The Ross Sea Party... of Science degrees. He was teaching at the Dookie Agricultural College when he volunteered for the expedition. (Andrew) Keith Jack was a member of the Ross Sea Party, stranded in Antarctica whilst laying down supplies for Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Imperial ...
As Shackleton’s ambitious 'Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition' of 1914 foundered, the Ross Sea party, responsible for laying down crucial supplies, continued unaware, making epic sledging journeys across Antarctica, to lay stores for an expedition that would never arrive.
In 1914 Ernest Shackleton advertised for men to join the Ross Sea Party which would lay supply deposits for his 'Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition'. Three Victorians were selected for the ten-man shore party: Andrew Keith Jack (a physicist), Richard Walter Richards (a physics teacher from Bendigo), and Irvine Owen Gaze (a friend of Jack’s).
The Ross Sea party commenced laying supplies in 1915 unaware that Shackleton’s boat Endurance had been frozen in ice and subsequently torn apart on the opposite side of the continent (leading to Shackleton’s remarkable crossing of South Georgia in order to save his men). Thinking that Shackleton’s life depended on them, the Ross Sea Party continued their treacherous work, with three of the men perishing in the process. The seven survivors (including Jack, Richards and Gaze) were eventually rescued in 1917 by Shackleton and John King Davis.
In total, the party’s sledging journeys encompassed 169 days, greater than any journey by Shackleton, Robert Scott, or Roald Amundsen – an extraordinary achievement.
Jack, Gaze and others in the party took striking photographs during their stay. Jack later compiled the hand coloured glass lantern slides, which along with his diaries, are housed at the State Library of Victoria.