An important aspect of the Chinese contribution was the provision of food to the colony.
Market gardens were set up by Chinese immigrants, supplying essential food and nutrition to most goldfields settlements.
The value of Chinese gardeners to Victoria and Victorians was mentioned in 'The Chinese Question' booklet by Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Cheong and Louis Ah Mouy in 1879, protesting against the anti-Chinese immigration laws. They wrote:
'It cannot be denied that our countrymen have been good colonists. Had it not been for them, the cultivation of vegetables, so indispensable to the maintenance of health in a hot climate like this, would scarce have been attempted in the neighbourhood of some goldfields; and the mortality of children would have been very much greater than it really has been. Lease or sell half an acre of apparently worthless land to a small party of Chinamen, and, if there is access to any kind of water or manure, they will transform it, by their system of intensive husbandry, into a most prolific garden.'
As the gold rush wore on, some Chinese miners turned to gardening and agriculture, building good businesses and even new industries, such as the tobacco industry of the Ovens Valley.
Their legacy continues: Chinese onions can still be found growing in now abandoned areas on the Castlemaine diggings.
The pictured map is from a pocket-sized notebook used for field surveys of applications for mining claims. Each field survey is a snapshot of the site surveyed and includes details such as buildings, gardens and dams that did not appear on the later, finished survey.
This survey shows Chinese market garden allotments between the Yarrowee Creek and Humffray Street Ballarat East in 1881.
With thanks to Elizabeth Denny.