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” Wasn’t the Chinese a man and a brother?” : the Clunes 1873 Riot Exhibition

By James Curzon-Siggers, Clunes Museum President

The Clunes Museum and Ballarat’s Federation University are collaborating on a a major exhibition which will focus on that signature event in the history of our town – the industrial action and strike of late 1873 at the Lothair mine which culminated in the events of December 9, 1873, often categorized as an anti-Chinese race riot by many historians writing generalist histories. In-depth research reveals a different and more complex story. This was a major event in the history of the goldfields, in the development of Australian trade unionism and, according to some, the making of the White Australia policy. The exhibition will be held next year to coincide with the International Booktown Festival in May and runs from mid-April to the end of May. Professor Keir Reeves and the team at Federation University’s Australian History Dept. will guest curate the exhibition. Can you help? We will look at this iconic Clunes event and its myths from a range of perspectives and there will be a focus on the individuals involved such as Peter Lalor, a Lothair mine director; Robert Bryant, the mine manager; William Blanchard, 1st President of the Clunes Miners’ Association and Mayor as well as wives and women, the strikebreakers, the miners, the Clunes Marching Band, the police and Chinese living in Clunes, Creswick and Ballarat.

If you think you have any old photos or documents or mine plans or maps or letters or lithographs or information about individuals that may be relevant, we’d like to hear from you. Contact me on 0412853410 or through the Museum.