Five men have walked into Bendigo after spending 16 days and more than 500 kilometres on foot following the path taken by Chinese gold seekers during the gold rush era.
Alfred Tuet, Dylan Ng, Dominic Liu, Shing Wong and Henry Wu arrived at Joss House a little after 1.30pm on Thursday to the cheers of family and friends, the end of a journey that began in Robe, South Australia.
They called their trek Walk to Learn, having undertaken it to learn about the history of the people who walked this route more than 150 years ago while testing their own endurance and determination.
During the gold rush the Victorian government, in an attempt to limit the number of Chinese entering the colony, imposed a law that restricted the entry of Chinese people to one person per 10 tonnes of ship cargo and introduced a 10-pound tax on each Chinese person entering through a Victorian port.
To avoid this, Chinese prospectors disembarked at Robe and walked the hundreds of kilometres to the goldfields of Victoria.
Between 1857 and 1863, 16,262 Chinese – just one of them a woman – landed at the port of Robe.
Mr Tuet said the idea of the walk had been brewing in his mind since a visit to the town in the 1980s.
“I was travelling with friends and I saw the plaque at Guichen Bay, Robe, that over 16,000 Chinese landed in Guichen Bay and walked to Bendigo for unfair reasons, and I said to my friends, ‘I’m going to do that walk’,” Mr Tuet said.
But it was not until July last year that the pieces started to come together and he mustered together a group of friends, researched the route and started training for the journey.
The men walked more than 30 kilometres most days to make it to Bendigo on time, passing through such towns as Penola, Casterton, Cavendish, Dunkeld, Avoca and Maryborough.
Mr Tuet said the walk gave him an indication of the “remarkable” stamina and spirit those who forged the path must have possessed.
“I think the first thing I learnt is that I do have that level of determination and resilience, but I also learnt that the way I walked was a lot more comfortable than what the Chinese in the 1850s had to walk,” he said.
Mr Tuet said Bendigo resident Fabian Reid, who walked the trail 15 years ago, was a great help in providing information and insight.
City of Greater Bendigo councillor Peter Cox was at Joss House to welcome the walkers and said their feat was a “lovely reminder of the Chinese heritage that Bendigo is so proud of”.
Mr Tuet also used the walk to bring attention to and raise money for Free to Shine, a not-for-profit organisation that identifies girls in Cambodia likely to be targeted by sex traffickers and supports them in their schooling, reducing their risk of falling victim to the trade.
Free to Shine chief executive officer Nicky Mih said the organisation provided school equipment, shoes and bikes to girls to allow them to attend school.
Ms Mih said the charity, which was founded in 2010, was working with 639 girls and not one had been trafficked.
As of Thursday afternoon Mr Tuet had raised $3500 for Free to Shine.
For more information visit the fundraising website.