new gold mountain
Gold attracted thousands of Chinese to North Queensland in the late 1800s. ‘New Gold Mountain’ as Australia was called, was seen by many as a way to get rich quickly before returning home.
As the gold dwindled and racist sentiments increased, the Chinese were forced to find work in other areas.
The discovery of vast stands of red cedar and black bean, among the vine scrub of the Atherton Tablelands region, provided welcome job opportunities in timber and firewood cutting. The Chinese settled in an area known as Cedar Camp – on the outskirts of the growing town of Atherton.
lychees and longans
The forests surrounding the town of Atherton were soon replaced by farmland. Unable to purchase their own property, Chinese farmers leased land from white settlers and pioneered the growing of maize, peanuts and lychees.
A small but thriving township sprang up, complete with stores, herbalists, bakeries, laundries, and boarding houses.
decline of a community
At the end of World War 1, the (then) Tinaroo Divisional Board moved that ‘All lands at present being leased to Asiatics in the Atherton, Tolga, Kairi area be resumed for soldier settlement’.
The Returned Soldier Settlement Scheme resulted in the eviction of Chinese Australians from their farming leases. Denied their livelihoods, many moved away.
As Chinatown was primarily a service centre, trade in the town diminished as the displaced Chinese left the area. By the late 1920s Chinatown was almost deserted. The town left a legacy: a highly significant archaeological site and a rare form of Chinese temple.
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