Historical overview – Chinese in New England

In the nineteenth century, Chinese people were amongst those who invaded the lands of the Anaiwan, Bigambul, Gamilaraay, Jukambal, Kwiagambal, Ngoorabul, Nucoorilma and Wirrayaraay peoples. Our Chinese Past acknowledges and respects the traditional custodians of these lands. We acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to country and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

The colonial dispossession of the traditional owners began in the 1830s when the pastoral frontier extended into the northwest of New South Wales. A labour shortage in the late 1840s and early 1850s led to the importation of Chinese indentured labourers to work on five year contracts as shepherds on pastoral runs in the middle districts. The majority of the indentured Chinese labourers were from brought from the port of Amoy, which was opened as a treaty port after the first Opium War. At the expiry of their contracts, some continued to work in pastoralism, or were amongst the earliest on the goldfields when the goldrushes commenced in 1851.

They were joined by Chinese gold seekers from the Pearl River Delta area of Southern China, who began arriving on the New South Wales goldfields in large numbers in 1856. Where they settled they built temples. The earliest temple in the northwest of NSW was built on the Rocky River goldfield at Uralla.

In the early 1870s, when tin mining took off in northwest NSW, Chinese miners established communities in the tin mining towns of Tingha and Emmaville, where they also built temples. Though these temples are no longer extant, objects from the various temples have survived and form part of the collections of local museums.

To read a historical overview of Chinese settlement in Rocky River – Uralla, Tingha and Emmaville, click on the underlined place names or on the map.