Robes to Riches Walk marks Ararat leg of tour

Sam Shalders

Posted Thursday 18 May, 04:08pm

Some very special guests were treated to dinner at Gum San Great Hall on Tuesday night to celebrate the history of the Ararat Rural City.

On Saturday, May 6 a group of walkers set off from Robe in South Australia to commemorate the first walk made by Chinese immigrants to the Victorian Goldfields.

The group is comprised of 15-20 members participating in the 20-day, 500-kilometre trek, which will conclude on May 25 at the steps of Victorian Parliament.

The Ararat stopover coincided with the 160th Anniversary of the founding of Ararat by Chinese miners and was marked with a sumptuous four course Chinese dinner at the Gum San Great Hall.

Approximately 50 people attended the dinner, with a welcome conducted by Ararat Rural City Council Coordinator of Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, John Watson and Ararat Rural City Council Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper also offering his well wishes to the group.

The dinner was organised and delivered by Friends of Gum San, with President Henry Gunston speaking of the history of the building of Gum San.

The Robe to Riches Walk is in honour of history dating back to 1855, when the Victorian Parliament passed legislation restricting the passage of Chinese travellers into the state, passengers were limited to one per tonne of goods shipped and were required to pay a 10 pound per person Poll Tax to arrive in Victorian ports.

Creative agents and ship captains instead deposited their human cargo in neighbouring states to avoid the crippling tax and set them on a 500-kilometre trek to seek their fortune.

The first of these occurred in early 1857 with Robe quickly becoming the favoured port for these journeys to begin.

This year is recognised as the Australia-China Year of Tourism, so it is fitting that the Chinese Community Council of Australia (Vic) has chosen to re-enact this significant historical event.