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Yoke used by Chinese labourers in Victorian goldfields, 19th century

Date: 19th century
Overall: 690 x 895 x 30 mm, 1.1 kg
Medium: Wood, metal, rope
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Yoke
Object No: 00027599
Place Manufactured:Victoria

User Terms

    This yoke was used by Chinese miners at the gold diggings at Ballarat, Victoria. It consists of a long narrow piece of wood with a semicircle hole cut into the centre to be rested against the wearer’s neck. Attached at each end are ropes with hooks that allowed the wearer to carry items such as buckets. Chinese immigrants introduced the use of yokes, which were useful for carrying heavy loads such as gold-bearing soil to puddling tubs and cradles, to the gold diggings.

    SignificanceThis yoke is representative of Chinese immigration to Australia in the 1800s and highlights the introduction of new technology.
    HistoryDuring the 1800s the discovery of gold in California and Australia instigated the migration and movement of many people. The decade of the gold rush in the 1850s saw tens of thousands of miners criss-crossing the Pacific Ocean between Australia and America. A $20 one-way ticket bought the traveller a bunk and space for one trunk and the trip between Sydney and San Francisco took about six weeks.

    The Chinese originally came to Australia to fill the demand for much needed farm labour. Along with everyone else they flocked to the diggings too and many returned to China taking their gold with them. Other Chinese people stayed and developed businesses or market gardens, often bringing their families out to join them or marrying within the wider colonial population.

    When gold was plentiful in the miners diggings the Chinese population were left alone. However, as gold became harder to find, resentment and open aggression set in. In 1861 Chinese miners were attacked at Lambing Flat near Young, New South Wales. This incident prompted the government to restrict the number of Chinese immigrants- in what was the beginning of a 'white Australia' policy. In 1901 the newly formed Commonwealth of Australia passed the Immigration Restriction Act, which in part was a focused attempt to reduce the number of Chinese immigrants.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Yoke used by Chinese labourers in Victorian goldfields

    Primary title: Yoke used by Chinese labourers in Victorian goldfields, 19th century

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