It takes a profound degree of determination to embark on a 14 day journey from Robe to Ballarat on foot.
It is a sense of dedication and determination Ballarat resident Charles Zhang is certainly not lacking.
He embarked on the 400km journey with his 16-year-old son in 2013, in a bid to understand the journey Chinese migrants made to Ballarat’s goldfields from South Australia to avoid the expensive Victorian entry tax.
“Because it is such an important part of the history I wanted to do it myself to understand and know how it feels,” Mr Zhang said.
In 2016 he ran the expedition on a larger scale with 20 people walking from Robe to Melbourne.
“We want to recognise history. We want people to understand the Chinese played a great role in building this country in its early stages,” he said.
The Vice President of the Chinese Australian Cultural Society continues to champion Chinese history and culture in Ballarat.
Chinese culture can be a part of Australian culture.Charles Zhang
It has been 20 years since Mr Zhang moved to the city, and 10 since he was involved in the creation of the Chinese Australian Cultural Society Ballarat, after seeing a need to bridge cultural differences.
The group has been involved in many events since its inception, more than 20 each year, including celebrating Chinese New Year at Sovereign Hill and putting on a show of colour and music at the Begonia Festival Parade.
Mr Zhang’s most recent project involves interviewing Chinese families on radio as a volunteer for Voice FM and documenting the stories for the 2019 Ballarat Heritage Weekend.
It makes the whole community stronger and better by maintaining the best of different cultures.Charles Zhang
A job first brought Mr Zhang and his family to Ballarat in 1998, when a company he worked for in Melbourne merged with a company in Ballarat to form MaxiTRANS.
He stayed in a hotel in Ballarat for the first 10 months of the Melbourne production line transition, before taking on a permanent role in the city he had come to love.
“I had grown up in country China. I love the country, I love the trees, and I think communities are most strong there. There were lots of things in Ballarat that ticked my boxes,” he said.
Mr Zhang came to Australia as an international student in 1989 and spent four years in Sydney and five in Melbourne before moving to Ballarat.
A thirst for a constant challenge saw him start his own business after working seven years with MaxiTRANS. He now works as a real estate agent specialising in vineyards and agriculture businesses.
The 2015 Ballarat Citizen of the Year will continue taking on new challenges in the city he has come to call home.
“I have been in Ballarat for 20 years and I don’t think I am going to move. I can stay here forever years, I love the culture.”
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