University of Tasmania
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Tasmania's Chinese heritage : an historical record of Chinese sites in North East Tasmania

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posted on 2023-05-26, 01:38 authored by Vivian, H
The Chinese came to Tasmania ( 1875 - 1890) to work the alluvial tin fields of the North East. They came as sojourners to make quick fortunes before returning to China. They comprised the largest non-European ethnic community in 19th Century Tasmania. The number of Chinese was never great, reaching a peak of approximately 1000 - 1500 in 1887, but they played a very important role in the settlement and development of the North East. Tin mining was the main industry in the region and accounted for 1/4 of the colony's export earnings during the 1880s. The Chinese were brought in as cheap labour for the mines in the late 1870s and early 1880s, but, by a combination of circumstances and perserverance, they quickly established themselves in their own right. By 1882, Chinese were more numerous than Europeans in the alluvial tin mines and they remained in the majority until about 1897 (by which time alluvial mining had diminished in importance). After the introduction of restrictive immigration laws in 1887 and a recession in tin mining in 1888, the number of Chinese gradually declined. Those that remained form the roots of the Tasmanian population of the 1980s. Very little has been recorded of the history of the Chinese in Tasmania, and this survey of historical Chinese sites can only be regarded as a preliminary step towards understanding a period of history which has all but vanished today. The project located and recorded 41 sites and includes 15 oral history recordings; this forms the most comprehensive collection or primary source material available on the Chinese to date. The archaelogical record is currently an untapped source of information on the Chinese. However, these sites are currently under threat from forestry, fossicking, and small-scale mining. It is important to preserve the sites as sources of culturally significant information and vital to protect them as culturally significant fabric, since very few structures have survived from this era of Tasmanian history.


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