Lowe Kong Meng arrives in Melbourne to find prosperity and prejudice
In 1853, Lowe Kong Meng, a young Chinese merchant and master of his own ship, arrived in the port of Melbourne, in the British colony of Victoria, carrying cargo from Mauritius. Gold had been discovered in the colony just two years earlier and the rush to be rich had begun. Immigrants poured in from around the world. The area around Melbourne was the traditional country of the Kulin people, but British settlers arriving across Bass Strait in 1835, proceeded, on the basis of a dubious treaty with the traditional owners, to occupy the land along the Yarra River and the rich pastoral country that lay beyond.
Within a couple of decades, local Indigenous communities were overwhelmed by the disease, dispossession and violence that accompanied colonial settlement. Survivors living near Melbourne were forced to reside on the swampland on the outskirts of the bustling new city. The logic of settler colonialism invariably meant displacement, if not extermination, of Indigenous peoples. British colonists assumed a right of entitlement secured by the imperial relations of racial domination.
Melbourne residents had celebrated their separation from New South Wales with the passage of the Australian Colonies Government Act in 1850; with extensive rolling pastures and fertile agricultural land the colony's future looked assured.