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Image Chinese gold digger preparing for work, c1860s

TLF ID R8012

This is a black-and-white photograph of a Chinese goldminer posed in front of a wall on a central or north Queensland gold field. He wears clean work attire of a conical hat, long-sleeved shirt and Western-style trousers and boots, and carries mining equipment on a shoulder yoke. The equipment includes buckets, spade and cradle. The photograph was taken by Richard Daintree.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The goldminer seen here, preparing for a day's work on a Qld gold field, was one of many Chinese miners working at Cape River, Crocodile Creek, Gympie and the Gilbert River in the 1860s. In 1858 it was reported that Chinese miners were working the limited deposits on the Canoona gold field near Rockhampton and by 1870 more than 2,000 Chinese miners could be found in Qld, most of them having arrived from the gold fields of Victoria and New South Wales.
  • The clothing this Chinese miner has chosen to wear - Western-style trousers and boots as well as the more traditional conical hat and collarless, loose-fitting shirt - represents an obvious cultural difference that sometimes led to hostility and prejudice from European Australians. Such prejudice led eventually to legislation being passed in Qld in 1887 to restrict Chinese immigration to Australia and their access to the gold fields.
  • Simple mining equipment such as the equipment the miner is carrying was used to locate surface, or alluvial, gold that was relatively easy to remove from gravel in riverbeds. The cradle on the left was a wooden box fitted on rockers. Miners shovelled gravel loosened with a pick into the cradle, added water and rocked the cradle. The finer sand and clay were washed away through sieves leaving the heavier particles of gold trapped behind timber slats called riffles.
  • The miner carries his mining equipment on a pole over his shoulders, a Chinese custom that placed the load evenly and was a convenient way of transporting goods in the absence of wheeled transport or load-carrying animals. Efficient work practices such as this made Chinese miners a competitive force on the gold fields, which in turn led to greater hostility towards and prejudice against them.
  • The image was taken by Richard Daintree (1832-78), a noted geologist and photographer. On a visit to England in 1856 to study assaying and metallurgy, he became interested in photography. In 1868 as a geological surveyor in north Queensland he utilised his photographic skills in his work, creating a valuable photographic record as he carried out the first proper survey of the region.
  • With cumbersome equipment and problems of distance and transport, early out-of-doors photographers in Australia had to be particularly determined. They had to transport to their place of work at least one large heavy camera and tripod, large glass plates that usually measured 30 cm x 40 cm, a portable darkroom, darkroom equipment, chemicals and sometimes water. The results were quite different from traditional posed photographs taken in studios.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9

Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Richard Daintree
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Richard Daintree
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements