Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Life and death on the goldfields: A cemetery cyber-search

Unit title:
Life and death on the goldfields: A cemetery cyber-search

Year level:
Junior secondary.

Key learning areas:
Studies of society and environment

Curriculum emphases:
From: Studies in Asia: A Statement for Australian Schools:
- Developing concepts of Asia
- World contributions of the peoples of Asia

Two to three 50-minute lessons

There are Chinese cemeteries and Chinese sections in cemeteries scattered across Australia, particularly in the old mining districts. Students use and search the 'Old Cemetery in Ballarat' database and the 'Chinese Inquests in Victoria' database. The tasks involve students in group tasks of reading and ordering data, interpreting, and forming hypotheses emerging from the data.

Teacher background material:
The following links provide an introduction and overview of the topics covered in this unit:
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- For an understanding of names of Chinese people in the history record. See Why a Chinese person may have more than one name on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- Read 'Procedures' section of the Linda Brumley's 'Fading Links to China website for some help in considering the issues that hampered researchers.
- Become familiar with the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website, particularly Linda Brumley's 'Fading Links to China' site and perhaps consider working with excel to complete the graphs and tables.
- If unfamiliar with the conditions of the goldfields, visit the Victorian Cultural Collaboration 'GOLD!' site on the SBS website for a short survey through the gold rush and the conditions of work or a visual tour through the State Library of Victoria's online 'Life on the Goldfield's' exhibition.

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- search a database
- work cooperatively with others
- categorise information into graph form
- complete an oral presentation
- compare data from other sources and draw conclusions relating to working and living conditions within Chinese mining communities.
- extend their ability to read, order and interpret primary sources.
- consider how data can reveal details about people's everyday life.
- see the links between themselves and others throughout history.

Materials required:
- Computer/s with access to the internet. Alternatively could use a cached version of the site, paste the database information into a spreadsheet program such as Excel or print relevant pages and copy onto overheads or handouts.
- Overhead projector, overhead transparencies and pens (Optional - can use white/black board or butcher's paper.)

1. Introduction
Explain the purpose of the lesson(s) is to work in groups to get a clearer picture of the working and living conditions for Chinese people (predominantly miners) in the mid to late 19th century Victoria. Students will be working with databases and will need to use the same skills as used when conducting a search on the library catalogue or when using indexes or encyclopedia.

2. Establish groups
Break the class into groups with at least 3 students in each. As described in the handout, 'Using primary sources: cyber data bases', students need to divide the labour within the group.

Each group will have a separate instruction sheet.

3. Work!
Students complete their tasks.

4. Reporting back
Students report their findings back to the class using their overheads to aid in the explanations of what they found.

5. Writing
Students consider/discuss the collected findings and either:
- write a short report
- draw a detailed picture
- write a story/diary

that describes life as a miner during this period. They need to include descriptions of their work, hours worked, personal health and physical problems experienced, etc. They will need to include evidence to support each of their points.

A discussion of what sort of events and issues that could be included in their account and some direction and examples of how to include evidence into each of these formats may be useful.

Extension activities:
1. Writing task (or role play):
Imagine you are a Chinese miner who is sick of seeing his friends involved in accidents and with health problems. Write either a speech or a dialogue where this miner discuss the ways some of these problems can be avoided.

2. Research Task:
Is mining still dangerous? How have mining practices evolved and has this changed the life of miners? Use the internet to conduct this research.

3. Research task:
In the Hospital database on Linda Brumley's 'Fading Links to China' website you can search for the religions of the Chinese who had been admitted to the hospital. Conduct a search of the database then investigate one of the religions and their rituals. Consider the role of ritual in death and how would these migrants have celebrated these rites in Australia.

Read the following to assist with this consideration:
- 'Religion - early 20th century' on the 'Harvest of Endurance Scroll' website and
- 'Chinese death and burial in Australia in the 18th and early 19th centuries' background information on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.
- document 1586: 'Letter requesting permission to exhume bodies from the Sydney cemetery for removal to China 1862' in the Digitised Historic Documents database on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website

Some others sites which may be of use are in the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website's 'Links' area.

Students report findings to the class.

4. Excursion:
Visit to a nearby cemetery (if Chinese burials are present).

Agatha Fedrizzi

Download 'Using primary sources: cyber data bases' handouts (61kb word document).

Summary of websites used in this lesson:
Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website - http
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia - education/history.htm
- Why a Chinese person may have more than one name - education/names.htm
- Linda Brumley's 'Fading Links to China' - brumley/brumley.htm
- Digitised Historic Documents database - docs_home.htm
- Useful Links database - links.htm
- Historical backgrounds - education/about.htm

SBS website -

State Library of Victoria website -

'Harvest of Endurance Scroll' on the National Museum of Australia website -