In the 1860's Victoria was a land full of opportunity. As opposed to Britain during the same decade, Victoria was more economically stable. Many who moved to Victoria hoped to gain prestige, wealth and prosperity in society. It is not surprising that women also held higher status than their contemporaries in Europe; they were wielded more power in social positions and they also were granted more leniency under the law. It was also during this decade that the gold rush was happening, and many people were flocking to this area for that purpose.
Everything was not ideal in this colony, however. There were many problems that were a result of British rule. There were also issues related to European superiority. When the colony was forming the British imposed cultural practice upon all who lived in the area, and those who did not abide by them were shunned. These people believed that all those who were of a race other than Europeans should be considered lower or beneath them. As a result of this attitude Europeans came out as the upper classes and all other people, including Native American people, the African Americans and other minorities in this area were outsiders and thus of the lower class.
The colony of Victoria was still young and growing and it had not yet reached a state of equal opportunity and fair dealing for all its members. In the judicial system there were some definite signs of inequality. It was not only a result of Europeans racist attitudes but also because the justice system had not yet been standardized. Punishments were given out on an individual bases and no two crimes were treated the same. Usually it was the white man who received the lesser punishment and the minority the harsher when charged with the same offense.
The corruption that filled the legal system extended into society. Anything of importance that was made it to the newspapers usually focussed on prominent white members of society. If another race or class was written about, it was often with regards to being the offenders or instigators of criminal activities. Also, with regards to crimes committed against a person of color versus against a white person, almost always the colored persons' case was hardly investigated, while a big deal was made for the white person.
This portion of Victoria's Victoria explores the varying degrees of racism in the handling of murders in Victoria during the 1860's. By using newspaper stories and other sources, this site focuses on three separate murders occurring in 1861, 1868, and 1869. The murders involve different races and different classes. We will examine the treatment of races in the presentation of murder in the media and also their treatment by the law.
Justin Wong, Vesta Rohani and Dana Kimoto