It is 54 miles from Cairns to Herberton, and I well remember a Chinaman tramping
the whole distance with two large baskets full of apples, which were for sale
John Potts, 1887.
In those days the land was all stumps and logs. They had to plant between
them.... They worked hard! Really hard!
Ernie May, December, 2001
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
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.