Acknowledgement of Country

Monkey Baa acknowledges the traditional custodians of this nation and honours their continued cultural and spiritual connection to the lands, waters and seas. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, on whose land we work, live and share stories.

Always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.


Jenevieve is a writer, performance-maker and story developer who has worked in the UK, China and Australia. In Australia, Jenevieve has worked with Malthouse Theatre, Bell Shakespeare, Griffin Theatre and Monkey Baa Theatre Company. In the UK, she has worked with The National Theatre, The Young Vic, Yellow Earth Theatre, Chopped Logic and Fran Barbe Dance. As a solo performer, she has toured widely, performing in venues in Berlin, Vienna, Montreal, Luxembourg, Cardiff, Ljubljana and Istres. Jenevieve’s multi-generational memoir, The Good Girl of Chinatown, was published by Penguin Random House in 2017. She has also written various radio plays for ABC Radio National. Jenevieve currently works in story development for film, television and online formats.

Jenevieve on writing Yong

DARREN YAP — Director

Darren is a director and actor who has been making theatre for over thirty years, both in Australia and around the world. In 2022, he directed cultural shows at Al Wasal Plaza for Artists in Motion at the Dubai World Expo, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Tokyo and The Last Five Years for La Boite Theatre, Brisbane. Darren has also directed two new Australian works, Yong for Monkey Baa Theatre Company and The One for Ensemble Theatre. Darren previously directed Next To Normal for the National Institute of Dramatic Art,  Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam for The National Theatre of Parramatta at Belvoir Street Theatre and Double Delicious for Sydney Festival and Contemporary Asian Australian Performance.

Darren on directing Yong


James graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2001 with a degree in Set and Costume Design before attending the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Art Direction. Recent design work includes Hair, The Selfish Giant (Victorian Opera), Ladies Day and Diving for Pearls (Griffin Theatre), Velvet starring Marcia Hines, Blanc De Blanc (Strut & Fret), Xanadu (Hayes Theatre Company), Mr Stink and SPOT (CDP Theatre Producers), The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Michael Sieders Productions), Beached (Griffin Theatre Company), The Bridges of Madison County (Hayes Theatre Company), and New Breed (Sydney Dance Company). This is James’ third production working with Monkey Baa Theatre Company, having previously designed Pete the Sheep and Josephine Wants to Dance, which was nominated for a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Costume Design of a Mainstage Production.

James on designing Yong

WERN MAK — Performer

Originally from Melbourne, Wern Mak is a Malaysian Chinese actor. With few examples of Asian men on screen and stage when he was young, Wern decided that his mission was to change that. His goal is to break the mould of what an Australian-Asian actor can be and in doing so, attempt to inspire a new generation of young Asian actors. While not knowing what the future holds, Wern wants to explore all the facets of himself, both through acting and in life, in order to tell the many stories that are yet to be told. His theatre credits include Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play, Office Hour, Hurly Burly, The Cherry Orchard and A Midsummer night’s Dream (National Institute of Dramatic Art). Monkey Baa Theatre Company’s Yong is Wern’s professional theatre debut.

Wern on performing Yong

A Monkey Baa Theatre Company


Written for the stage by Jenevieve Chang

Based on Yong: The Journey of an Unworthy Son by Janeen Brian

This experience contains audio. Headphones recommended.
Click the ♫ button for music.


Click on the book icon to learn more about Yong and how to use this interactive experience.

About Yong

Set against the backdrop of the Australian Goldrush of 1857, Yong is a new Australian play by Jenevieve Chang. Mixing historical fact and narrative fiction, Yong takes us on a journey across land and sea, from China to the goldfields of Australia.

Yong and his father leave their small village and travel across the seas hoping to strike gold and find their fortune in the goldfields of Ballarat. Despite his family’s desperate need for money, Yong does not want to be on this journey. On the surface, he is an honourable son, but bubbling below is deepening resentment for his father and a longing for home. Faced with momentous change, Yong’s courage and inner strength are tested, and in overcoming difficult challenges, he discovers a resilience in himself that he never knew he had.

How to Use

To follow Yong’s journey, you can use your mouse, touchpad or keyboard to scroll through the story.

The story is broken up into ten scenes and includes narration from the character Yong and illustrations of the world he discovers.

You can listen to the writer, director, designer and actor talk about the theatre-making process by clicking on their portrait icon at the beginning of the scenes.

You can find historical context and classroom activities by clicking on the book icons at the end of the scenes.

1 Sailing from China

It has been three full moons since I last saw my grandma, my brothers and my baby sister.

It feels like Father and I have travelled so far from our village that we’ll soon drop off the edge of the world.

2 Landing in Australia

I step onto the shore and the air makes me thirsty just from breathing. The brightness of the sun hurts my skin.

It’s so different from home.

Someone asks Father how far we are from the goldfields. “Possibly three or four hundred miles, in the foreigner’s measurements,” he says.

Historical context

In the 1850s, the discovery of gold inspired many Chinese people to travel long distances to Australia and try their luck in the goldfields. Many crossed dangerous seas, risking their lives to one day make their fortune. The voyage from China to Australia was uncomfortable and unsafe, and all passengers were required to bring their own clothing, utensils and bedding for the trip. Along with the harsh storms, passengers had to deal with poor hygiene, little ventilation or light, cramped conditions and even disease.

Many Chinese people came from impoverished areas in southern China, pushed by environmental, economic and political difficulties and pulled by the lure of gold. They travelled a long way from their villages to seek gold and create a better life for the families they left behind back home.

Classroom activities

History Activity

Packing for a long journey

DESCRIPTION: Students create a visual list of what an imaginary passenger might pack for a long journey across the seas
RESOURCES: Research tools, writing/drawing materials and/or device
SKILLS REQUIRED: Research, writing, drawing, imagination

Download Worksheet

Drama Activity

Sound environment + building a ship

DESCRIPTION: Students create the sounds of the ocean and a ship at sea with their voices and bodies
RESOURCES: Large, open space

Download Worksheet

3 Missing Home

We won’t get home for months and months.

I can picture Grandma watching the seasons come and go, wondering if we’re okay. I remember her brave smile as she said goodbye to us.

4 Walking from Robe

Everything is movement as all the men are busy preparing to set off. Mr Li is shuffling through maps, Mr Feng is haggling over pots and Mr Chee is patching his shoes.

Father finds a man to guide us to the goldfields of Ballarat. His name is George.

I ask Father how we will get there.

“We will walk, as we have always walked.”

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” according to Lao Tzu.

One step and another and another.

Historical context

Many of the Chinese gold seekers were dropped in Robe (South Australia) and forced to walk to the goldfields in Ballarat (Victoria). When Chinese people first arrived in Robe, the population of 200 doubled overnight and before long, the Chinese population climbed to 3,000. The small town with only a handful of hotels, banks, shops, churches and houses, grew enormously.

Chinese travellers landed on Guichen Bay (Robe) and camped on the beachfront until they found work and somewhere to live. Before heading to the goldfields of Victoria, Chinese people hired European guides to show them the way. They would walk around 30km (or 60 Li in Chinese miles) a day and on their journey would dig wells for freshwater and purchase sheep to eat.

The Chinese travellers passed through many towns, leaving messages for other travellers along the way. Some of the guides were dishonest and unreliable, and after one or two days of travel, they would desert the Chinese travellers, leaving them stranded. Travellers marked the way by inscribing Chinese characters in the bark of trees, leaving a trail for others to follow. To this day there exist many relics of those long forgotten Chinese travellers and their journeys, such as holy dollars and ginger jars brought all the way from China.

Classroom activities

History Activity

Writing a letter home

DESCRIPTION: Students write a letter home from the perspective of a 19th century immigrant travelling by ship to Australia
RESOURCES: Research tools, writing materials
SKILLS REQUIRED: Research, writing, imagination

Download Worksheet

5 Exploring the Land

The track is full of holes. We don’t belong, this track and I. Back home, I knew the direction of every house and farm and hill and stream. But here, I know nothing.

I discover a Chinese well, it is round like the ones at home, with no corners for evil spirits to hide in. I find a necklace too, there would have been many coins on it once. But I guess they hold no value here.

Mother used to say it is terrible to leave things behind just because they are a burden in a new place.

6 Sharing a Moment

Father was sick last night. I am off to find him water.

I walk through the bush. The birds and animals call out, they’re saying goodnight to each other, I think. I can hear my heart beating and my blood rushing.

Is Father okay?

I hear singing and follow the sound.

I see a man, clapping sticks. Beside him is a boy, like me, except black. The man turns and sees me. I stand and my legs are shaking. Please don’t hurt me, I’m thinking. The man sees my empty water bag, he points down the path past the clearing and I realise he is saying something.

“Parreetch, parreetch.” Water.

I begin to walk and the boy steps toward me, he reaches out his hand and we touch.

I walk to the waterhole.

Historical context

Chinese people were a long way from home and most came without their families, as it was their main aim to make enough money to support their loved ones back in China. The distance from their families led to sadness and depression and gave rise to European suspicion of the mostly-male community. The only option was to work even harder or pass the free hours gazing out to sea, perhaps with a soothing pipe or two. Men everywhere countered boredom with gambling and the Chinese were no exception, taking great delight in an enthusiastic game of Mah-jong.

When Chinese gold seekers arrived in Australian goldfields, they joined what was known as the Chinese district. The camps were originally composed mostly of canvas structures, but as time wore on some buildings became more permanent. Local newspapers commented on the features of the Chinese workers, from their clothes, languages and distinctive habits. Many admired their methods of hard work, tirelessness and productivity.

Classroom activities

History Activity

Mapping Yong’s Journey

DESCRIPTION: Students map out and recreate Yong’s walk from Robe to Ballarat
RESOURCES: Research tools, writing materials, large open space
SKILLS REQUIRED: Research, mapping, imagination

Download Worksheet

History Activity

Exploring characterisation through movement

DESCRIPTION: Students create and explore characters through different types of walking and movement
RESOURCES: Large, open space

Download Worksheet

7 Continuing On

When I return, Father is much sicker. He is burning up.

He is holding Mother’s sash with the blue and silver chrysanthemums. “Your mother,” he says, “she loved that sash, this as she loved you.”

“You are a good son, Yong.”

We will keep walking all the way to the goldfields.

I imagine Grandma’s face when we come home with all that gold. Her eyes will crinkle up and she will brag to everyone, “My son did this, my grandson did this!”

8 Saying Goodbye

When I wake up, Father is gone.

For the first time, we are digging, but not for gold.

We bury Father on a small hill facing the ocean. I am told it is the right balance of wind and water.

His spirit will ride home on the wings of a crane.

Historical context

Chinese people were generally acknowledged as being peaceful, honest, industrious and kind. But their different language, appearance and manners made them an easy target for attacks. Abused and misunderstood, the Chinese only banded together more closely. The European diggers were in close competition with the Chinese and took revenge in the 1860-61 Lambing Flat Riots in New South Wales. They burned tents and destroyed provisions, and many of the Chinese miners had been driven off. On 30 June 1861, men began to gather with bludgeons and pick handles, crying out “No Chinese!” as they marched on Lambing Flat. The handful of police quickly abandoned any attempt to control the throng as it swelled to more than 2,000. Forewarned, the Chinese diggers headed for the goldfields and their empty camp was torn apart. Some Europeans on horseback managed to round up a thousand or more Chinese and the mob went to work with appalling hatred. Showing no resistance, the Chinese were mercilessly beaten and whipped, and all their possessions piled into huge bonfires. Similar acts of hatred and violence occurred in other parts of New South Wales and Victoria. The Chinese miners had paid the price for their industry, but as the gold in New South Wales and Victoria petered out, and new deposits were found in Queensland, a similar story unfolded.

Classroom activities

Drama Activity

Living statues

DESCRIPTION: Students bring statues to life
RESOURCES: Large, open space

Download Worksheet

Drama Activity

Exploring emotions

DESCRIPTION: Students explore emotions through physical activity
RESOURCES: Large, open space

Download Worksheet

9 Taking a Stand

I spy Mr George talking to another guide.

“Are you looking to trade? They won’t be needing their gear,” he laughs, “I won’t be taking them all the way.”

“Mr George has been stealing from us,” I whisper to Mr Chung, “he is not planning to take us to the goldfields.”

I confront Mr George. “You are a thief!” I call out.

I see the glint of Mr George’s knife and in a confusion of sound, he swoops down and hacks at Mr Chung’s head, cutting off his ponytail.

“Get away!” I shout and with a thick tree branch, I strike Mr George down.



10 Arriving in Ballarat

“Mr Chung, you are a man of courage,” I tell him, “and what happened to your hair doesn’t change that. Will you drive the cart for us to the goldfields?”

“Alright, Yong, I will do it for you.”

“Let’s march on.”


A fog clears and I see a sign with Chinese characters.


Father, I made it, I finished the journey you started. I finished the journey you wanted and I made it mine.

I have walked. I have arrived.

Historical context

Within the Chinese goldfield community, many expanded their contribution with new stores, restaurants, teahouses, tailors, herbalists, acupuncturists, interpreters, scribes and specialised artisans. There were Chinese theatres and, in some locations, a Chinese-operated coach service that ran between goldfields towns. Many women also became independent entrepreneurs during the gold rush, panning for gold as well as establishing successful businesses. Many were economic pioneers who broke the mould of what was considered possible for women.

As gold and other minerals were discovered in Queensland, Northern Territory and north-east Tasmania, more Chinese gold seekers travelled to Australia. Along with the miners came Chinese entrepreneurs who helped provide goods and services for the emerging population. Chinatowns sprang up across Australia in the major areas where they lived and worked in. The Chinatowns didn’t just offer accommodation for the communities, many businesses opened up there, including eateries, groceries, markets, laundries and groceries. The Chinese people became the main suppliers of services and products like tea, furniture, silk, and food for the colonies. In the years to come, from the gold rush to today, the contribution of Chinese people to Australia’s social and economic development has been enormous and their impact on the Australian cultural landscape is phenomenal.

Classroom activities

History Activity

Chinese contribution timeline

DESCRIPTION: Students create a timeline of Chinese contribution
to Australia from the early nineteenth century to now
RESOURCES: Research tools, writing materials
SKILLS REQUIRED: Research, writing, imagination

Download Worksheet

Drama Activity

First and last

DESCRIPTION: Students create improvised scenes based on dialogue from Yong
RESOURCES: Large, open space

Download Worksheet


Built by Daniel Reid and Mel Huang
Illustrations by Kim Siew
Written by Alexander Andrews with excerpts from Yong by Jenevieve Chang
Soundscape by Max Lambert


Writer Jenevieve Chang
Director Darren Yap
Performer Wern Mak
Production Designer James Browne
Composer Max Lambert
Lighting Designer Ben Brockman
Movement Director Angie Diaz
Sound Designer Zac Saric
Adaptation Consultant Sandra Eldridge
Chinese Cultural Consultant
Charles Zhang
First Nations Consultant
& Writer of First Nations Scene
Richard Frankland
Monkey Baa Artistic Director
Eva Di Cesare

  • Monkey Baa Theatre Company

Monkey Baa creates and presents great theatre for young people. We collaborate with internationally acclaimed authors, award-winning creatives and, most importantly, imaginative young people, in bringing our shows to life.

  • Australian Government RISE Fund
    • Australia Council for the Arts
    • NSW Government

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund and the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Monkey Baa is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.




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For more information about the production, visit the Yong page.