Speech at the opening ceremony
From Robe to Chinese Fortunes Exhibition
by June Anderson
Acting President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia (Vic)
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I would first however like to express my particular gratitude to the people who organised and created this enlightening exhibition and to the Melbourne Immigration Museum for hosting it.
For many Australian people, even those with Chinese background, the history of the Walk from Robe –regrettably- has remained little known. This year, CCCAV are putting on a series of events which look back into this chapter of Australian history, for it is necessary to understand the past in order to understand the present and plan for the future.
We have successfully organised the Walk from Robe Project, which pays respect to our ancestors who endured the long journey from South Australia to Victoria. This event led to the apology from the Victorian government, and marks an historic moment to be celebrated by all Chinese Australians, and indeed, all Chinese.
Following on that event, we are pleased to partner with the immigration museum to put on this exhibition in order to provide a different perspective on this historical period. The exhibition will not only shine a light on the little known aspects of the hardships the Chinese miners went through, but also safeguard an important piece of history for future generations.
Our organisation, the Chinese Community Council of Australia is the peak advocacy body for the Chinese community in Australia.We aim to increase the representation of Chinese-Australians in our multicultural society. Chinese immigrants, and indeed, all immigrants, have been playing an important role in this country. We take pride to celebrate their heritage and to share their stories with you.
It is therefore with great pleasure that I join you all at this opening ceremony, and express my hope that many will come to see this exhibition on the Chinese diaspora stories, lessons, and hope which are of great significance.
Struggling to get to shore
In the words of the Artist, Gwendoline Krummins
“This drawing illustrates when Mei Ling arrives in Robe and has to pay the Pound to catch the row boat to shore. I put myself into that situation. All I could see was this turmoil of large waves around her. And people drowning and dying. And I thought of the community in that boat at that time. How would she feel? Being a young girl of 19? I really felt she would have closed in on herself. She would have been holding herself very tight, and not knowing how to deal with this situation.
I also felt that people would have been going out of their way to help those they had camaraderie with on that journey. And others who would have just frozen in horror. I have the row boat rower looking away, towards shore. Trying to disengage himself, even though he would have had emotions that he couldn’t help everybody. But that he just doesn’t want to be part of it. He is trying to keep himself alienated from terror.
Autumn: Reunion at the well
In the words of the Artist, David Chen:
“Tone is the major means to create a picture and set the mood. This image is one of four which depict the four seasons of life. The seasons reflect the Miners searching for the better life. Hope!
This particular painting shows Autumn at night. After all day digging the gold Chinese miners gather around the well, which they dug themselves.
They are sitting there with a full moon, which in Chinese culture means family reunion. This group of people have left their family behind. I am sorry for them, like me, leaving China behind. So I have a very strong feeling towards this painting.”