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The Emergence of a Goldfields Political Culture

Examination of the political culture of the diggings reveals the broader historical significance of the monster meeting, of between 10,000 and 12,000 European diggers, held on 15 December 1851 at Golden Point near Castlemaine. The import of this incident has not been fully acknowledged by mining historians, who have given precedence over it to the events at Eureka. The Chinese agitation in protest against the poll tax is even less well known than the monster meeting, and barely constitutes an historical footnote in many prominent histories of the gold rush era in Victoria.

While the Gold Commission’s recommendations signalled a victory for the European miners, it had also devised the introduction of a Chinese residence tax. This poll tax, based on racial grounds and aggressively policed by the government agents, was intended to provide the resources for a Chinese Protectorate system. The system was not implemented successfully and the rigid imposition of this arbitrary regulation galvanised the Castlemaine Chinese community into their own protest.

Keir Reeves

Anderson, Hugh, Report from the commission appointed to inquire into the condition of the goldfields to His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham, K.C.B. Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Victoria, Red Rooster Press, Melbourne, 1978. Details
'The Chinese agitation', Mount Alexander Mail, 25 May 1859. Details
'The Chinese and the residence ticket', Mount Alexander Mail, 4 June 1859. Details
'Chinese Capitation Tax', Portland Guardian, 16 April 1863. Details
Foster, Harley, The Central Gold-Fields, Cyprus Books, Box Hill, 1973. Details