A formal apology to Chinese Victorians

07 June 2017

Premier Daniel Andrews has formally apologised to Chinese Victorians for a racist tax implemented in the 1800s that forced many of Australia’s first Chinese migrants to walk more than 500 kilometres from South Australia to enter the Victorian goldfields.

The apology was issued at a special reception event at Parliament House on Thursday 25 May 2017, which welcomed a group of walkers that re-enacted the ‘Great Walk from Robe’ for its 160th anniversary. The group, which included some direct descendants of Chinese migrants who made the historic journey back in 1857, completed the trek in 20 days and were greeted by lion dancers, and Chinese drummers and dancers on the steps of Parliament House.

Chinese migrants were charged 10 pounds each when they disembarked in Victoria’s ports. The sum was equal to many years’ wages at the time and those who paid it were often left with significant debts. To avoid the tax, more than 16,000 Chinese migrants disembarked in Robe, South Australia, and travelled to Victoria by foot. The journey of over 500 kilometres meant some travellers died of starvation, sickness or exhaustion along the way, while those who survived the trip faced discrimination once they arrived.

Premier Daniel Andrews said it was never too late to say sorry in his recognition of the Chinese community.

"To every Chinese Victorian, to every person hurt by that terrible policy position, on behalf of the Victorian government, on behalf of the Victorian Parliament I express my deepest sorrow and I say to you that we are profoundly sorry," said Premier Andrews.

"But with such a dedicated focus on hard work, family, on giving back … I don't think anyone has made a bigger contribution … to the modern multiculturalism that we cherish and value so very much,” he said.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott, said the discrimination Chinese migrants faced would never be forgotten.

"We will make sure it never happens to another group of Victorians again," said Mr Scott.

Victoria’s Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy also acknowledged the effect of the re-enactment in history.

“We trust that the legacy of why you have walked, of the point that everyone has made in this outstanding contribution, will now be one that is remembered by current and future generations,” he said.

Member for Clarinda and Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Asia Engagement, Mr Hong Lim hosted the reception event, which was proudly organised by the Chinese Community Council of Australia Victorian Chapter.

back to listing >