The first group of Chinese labourers arrived in Darwin in 1874 as indentured labourers or 'coolies'. Many were highly skilled tradesmen and they were employed on roads, in the mines, on the Overland Telegraph and on railway construction. In the late 19th century, there were up to seven times more Chinese in the Territory than any other ethnic group and since then, the Chinese have continued to play a very important part in the development of the NT. Their early contributions to all branches of industry and business were essential and without their enterprise, skills and the food they grew, life in the Territory would have been significantly less attractive. They faced extreme hardships and discrimination but their determination and perseverance helped them to overcome these difficulties and have earned them a very important place in Territory society and history.
The Museum aims to encourage greater awareness and understanding of the history of the Chinese in the Territory. The Museum is open to the public and other institutions, for general interest, research and education. The Museum is a stimulus for families and individuals to research and document their histories and serves to remind present and future generations of their heritage. The opening of the NT Chinese Museum is just the beginning. There is much more research to be undertaken; more themes to be explored and developed; many more stories to be told and photos and objects to be found and displayed. The Museum highlights the importance and explores the history of the Chinese contribution to the development of the Northern Territory and is committed to documenting and preserving the history of the Chinese in the Territory, particularly Darwin and the surrounding regions.