The tone of Stone Sky Gold Mountain is sombre as the author Mirandi Riwoe looks back at Australian History in 1877. The Palmer River in Queensland is the setting for little known stories of Chinese immigrants who came to work on the goldfields in that tropical area. The clashes of cultures, involving the Chinese, Aboriginal people and the English in this tough climate, is predictable. The poverty and the desperation lead people to behave with little scruples or morals.
The initial thoughts of a Chinese brother and sister (who is disguised as a boy) show us that they left a life of desperation in China. Their father had gambled all their possessions, including younger siblings. Lae Yue, and his sister Ying, have travelled to Australia to regain their wealth on the Gold Fields in Northern Queensland.
When they leave that area, they move to a small town where prejudice and violence is rife. Sophie, is a prostitute who lives with her maid Meriem, living on the outskirts of the town. Theirs is a hard life but made easier by the earnings and protection that Sophie brings to the house. A silent friendship builds between Lae Yue and the English household and they benefit by helping each other.
A situation arises, which makes it no longer safe for the Chinese brother and sister to stay. This is a story of great hope and resilience, the brother and sister experience many life-threatening situations, but never lose sight of their goal which is to restore their siblings to the family home.
This is an area of History that has not been widely exposed. Unlike the Chinese on the Victorian Goldfields, this story has remained largely untold.