In 1861, there were more than 24,000 Chinese immigrants on the Victorian goldfields of Ararat, Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maryborough.
Vaughan Springs was once a large gold rush town called “the Junction”. Many Chinese miners moved there in 1854 and searched for alluvial gold in areas that had been abandoned by the Europeans. They established market gardens and Vaughan became an important stopover.
The Chinese diggers moved from goldfield to goldfield within NSW and across the border. Constantly on the move, their presence and experience are evidenced mainly from the observations and interpretation of Anglo-Australians, from archaeological digs and from objects saved by families and community members. There are few written accounts and sources from a Chinese perspective. The Chinese attracted particular attention and local newspapers were quick to comment on their distinctive features, clothes, languages and habits — especially their tendency to travel en masse — their methods of transport, their diligence, tirelessness and productivity.
Any admiration of their work ethic was offset by envy and resentment when times got hard. The Chinese were often scapegoated by disgruntled Anglo diggers as seen in the violent anti-Chinese riots at Turon (1853), Meroo (1854) Rocky River (1856) Tambaroora (1858) Lambing Flat, Kiandra and Nundle (1860 and 1861) and Tingha tin fields (1870). They were seen initially as oddities, later as rivals and then as threats to white Australia.
Today the small Chinese Cemetery on a rise above the mineral springs is very different to the waste land created by the gold rush. Now it is a quiet, tranquil place for those who were not taken home to China, but who now rest here. Likewise, Castlemaine Cemetery has a very beautiful grove for the Chinese who died on the goldfields.