A MAJOR public artwork of national, historic and cultural significance was launched in Ballarat on Sunday. Titled ‘Open Monument’, the artwork recognises the contribution of the Chinese population to Ballarat and the surrounding region from 1850 onwards. The project has been supported by the City of Ballarat and commissioned by Sovereign Hill. Internationally-acclaimed Hong Kong born Australian artist John Young and Times Two Architects have delivered the ‘Open Monument’. ‘Open Monument’ is a visually stunning and permanent 430 square metre installation consisting of 33 stone panels. The panels are laser-etched with personal accounts and historical images, and are mounted on two large walls that cascade into Len T Fraser Reserve. ‘Open Monument’ tells a story about the migration and contribution of Chinese miners to Ballarat from the Gold Rush until the present day.
It includes information about those who left and returned, and about those who stayed.
The Open Monument was launched by Ballarat Mayor Cr John Philips and ConsulGeneral of the People’s Republic of China in Victoria Mr Yumin Song, in the presence of families of the Chinese miners, dignitaries and the public. The monument is reflective of the Chinese history in Ballarat and indicative of many experiences throughout Australia had by the Chinese.
The majority of the first Chinese arrived in Ballarat to try their luck mining for gold, and by 1858, the Chinese population in Ballarat had reached its peak, with almost 10,000 individuals on the goldfields. Prior to the ribbon cutting the Chinese Masonic Society Lion Team performed for an appreciative audience. To the sound of beating drums and clanging of cymbals three Chinese dragons were woken from their slumber and went through their ritual.
During their performance Wathaurong Elder Uncle Bryon Powell quietly lit his fire for the smoking ceremony and without fuss cleansed the front of the monument. “This place portrays a lot of history. It’s a history that a lot of people should know, some do know, and sometimes it’s shameful but I’m here because I have a bit of a bond with the Chinese people who were here during the gold rush,” Uncle Bryon said. “Both the Chinese people and my family were classified as ‘non-citizens’, ‘non-people’, we were treated differently to everyone else. We weren’t considered human and that is a history that everyone should understand.” Ballarat Mayor Cr John Philips welcomed visitors on behalf of the City saying this monument would stand in good stead for many years to come.
“The Chinese were one of the largest groups that travelled to this country and to this City to actually search for gold but also to be part of that community, today we acknowledge that there are at least 16 of that original gold rush that are still here today, their families have stayed on and helped this city prosper and grow,” Cr Philips said. Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Victoria Mr Yumin Song praised the efforts of all parties involved in completing the monument. “This permanent monument stands as a testimony of our history of the many interactions of the people of China and Victoria,” he said. “At this moment my thoughts go back to 160 years ago when the people of China came to the gold rush and started to engage into this local community.”