Australia in the 1870s

Anti-Chinese protests

In 1873 rioting occurred on the Clunes goldfields in Victoria when many Chinese people were used to break a miner's strike. Anti-Chinese riots also broke out on the Palmer River goldfields in northern Queensland.

From 1875 all Australian colonies enacted legislation that excluded all further Chinese immigration. Existing Chinese residents were not expelled and retained the same rights as before. In 1876 Queensland imposed a £10 tax on Chinese migrants. The Chinese Immigrants Regulation Act 1877 (Qld) outlined that the tax would be returned to Chinese migrants if they left the country within three years of their arrival. Queensland also outlawed Chinese mining for gold in abandoned claims until three years after the claim had been given up.

Seamen working for the Australian Steam Navigation Company went on strike for more than a month, protesting against the employment of Chinese crews on coastal ships. The first Intercolonial Congress of Trade Unions was held in 1879 to discuss issues common to the working classes. Two main resolutions were passed, the first against assisted migration and the second against Chinese migration.

The riot at Clunes

A snapshot of 1878

  • January
    • The construction of the Ghan railway line commenced at Port Augusta in South Australia.

  • February
    • The telephone was used for the first time in Melbourne.

  • April
    • The Stawell Easter Gift, a professional foot-racing competition over 120 metres, was run for the first time on Easter Monday.

  • May
    • One thousand unemployed men marched up Collins Street in Melbourne demanding relief work.

  • November
    • The song 'Advance Australia Fair' was presented for the first time.

  • December
    • Seamen in Sydney went on strike against the employment of low-paid Chinese crews on ships. The strike spread to other ports in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. A mass anti-Chinese meeting was held in Hyde Park, Sydney.


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