New Gold Mountain digs up diverse story of Victoria's multicultural gold rush

UNTOLD STORY: Yoson An plays Wei Shing, a headman of the Chinese miners in SBS drama New Gold Mountain.
UNTOLD STORY: Yoson An plays Wei Shing, a headman of the Chinese miners in SBS drama New Gold Mountain.

IF you studied the Victorian Gold Rush of the 1850s in high school history the chances are you learnt about the Eureka Stockade and the adoption of the Southern Cross as a symbol of national identity.

What's traditionally been passed over, or marginalised, is the influence of Chinese miners and Indigenous people on this transformative era of the Australian nation.

Four-part mini-series New Gold Mountain attempts to correct the imbalance, with a large dollop of murder mystery and intrigue.

At the height of the gold rush, it is estimated 33,000 Chinese worked Victoria's gold fields, a fifth of the miner population.

They brought new language and culture to the Anglo-dominated colony of Victoria, but their arrival fostered prejudice, including the racially-motivated Buckland Riot.

New Gold Mountain is an ambitious exploration of that time told through the eyes of Chinese headman Wei Shing (pictured), played by Yoson An, who controls the Chinese mining operation in Ballarat. He's a politically-motivated figure, balancing relations with the British while skimming money off the top from his Chinese brethren.

Shing's control is thrown into chaos by the murder of a white woman. He reluctantly forms an alliance with young Aboriginal woman Hattie (Leonie Whyman), who is concerned the Indigenous population will be blamed.

Meanwhile, Shing's influence is being further threatened by Cheung Lei (Mabel Li), a charismatic woman sent from China by her powerful father.

New Gold Mountain was filmed at Ballarat's historic Sovereign Hill, shining the spotlight on one of Australia's great frontier stories.

New Gold Mountain premieres 9.30pm Wednesday on SBS.