• Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew comforts Charles Zhang (C) at a function at Parliament house in Melbourne Thursday, May 25, 2017 (AAP)
Victoria has made a bipartisan apology to the descendants of Chinese gold miners for the discrimination they suffered during the Gold Rush. It follows apologies in other countries for similar past discrimination against Chinese migrants.
Greg Dyett

25 May 2017 - 8:49 PM  UPDATED 25 May 2017 - 9:09 PM

Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews has delivered an emotional apology to families of Chinese migrants impacted by "terrible policy" in the Australian Gold Rush era. 

"To every Chinese Victorian, to every person hurt by that terrible policy position, on behalf of the Victorian government, on behalf of the Victorian parliament I express my deepest sorrow and I say to you that we are profoundly sorry," he said.

Applause rang out as Mr Andrews addressed an audience which included descendants of those who sought their fortune in the gold fields, but were taxed 10 pounds to prospect for gold, based on their race.

Politics were set aside as Victoria's Opposition Leader Matthew Guy lent his voice to the bipartisan apology, speaking briefly in Mandarin.

"We trust that the legacy of why you have walked, of the point that everyone has made in this outstanding contribution will now be one that is remembered by current and future generations," he said.

Australian country town honours its Chinese heritage
Tingha, a small town in rural New South Wales, has celebrated its Chinese heritage with a Lantern Festival to mark the end of Lunar New Year celebrations.

Among those in the audience was Chinese Consul-General, Jian Zhao. Mr Zhao says the early Chinese immigrants deserve recognition for overcoming the obstacles put before them.

"Perseverance, their endurance, their hard work and their sacrifice and it's a shared heritage for both of us and that spirit has encouraged the Chinese communities here to work hard to contribute to the Chinese community, to contribute to the prosperity and development of the Australian society."

The onerous 10 pound penalty imposed on some of Australia's first Chinese settlers caused many to walk to Robe in South Australia to avoid the fee. 

Some died through sickness and exhaustion, and the ones that did make it suffered discrimination and race riots.

160 years on, that journey has been recreated with walkers making the 522 kilometre trek from Robe in South Australia to Melbourne over three weeks.

Charles Zhang has been living in Australia for almost 30 years and was among the participants.

"Back to 2013, I take my youngest son from Robe to Ballarat, that's where I live, I've been living there for 20 years and this time I'm one of the organisers and also I did the full distance walk as well so that's how I got involved," Mr Zhang said. 

In 2001, New Zealand apologised for similar past policies, as did Canada in 2006.