Chinese Garden – 23-27 Monaro Street Opposite Swamp


Pambula’s Main Street

Did you know that Pambula had a small Chinese population during the 18th and early 19th centuries? Or that they were particularly fond of echidnas? Local Terry Dowling remembered:

“…one and six they give you for ‘em, Puddin’ Burgess, Jackie Newlyn and I walked that bush, we bagged up every bloody poor old echidna, wouldn’t matter if you took them friggin’ fifty, they had the money to buy them, they must have loved them. We took them live, they didn’t want them any way else bar alive, not damaged or nothing, I don’t know how they did them…”

As with many other parts of the Australian colonies, Chinese immigrants began arriving during the gold rush era of the 1850s and ‘60s. Lured from the impoverished areas of southern China they travelled by steamship to Merimbula and Eden before trekking overland to the Kiandra and Delegate diggings. Others arrived after the gold discovery south of Pambula in 1888. As the mines began to fade, some stayed in the district, taking up occupations such as market gardening.

At the gardens in Monaro Street “…There was a little timber house in the middle, iron roof and little palings like weatherboards, a respectable little joint right in the middle of their garden. They had an ordinary little cart, just like an overgrown barrow with shafts and a strap harness, they never had a bloody horse. One bloke would pull that around town and go to a house and the woman would come out and get their few spuds or carrots or parsnips or whatever. At show time, they would take this cart of veggies and watermelons and things and sell them at the Pambula Show…” (Which still occurs annually in Pambula!)

Among those who worked market gardening around the Pambula district were Willy, Wey Lee, Ah Kee, Ah Tin Gut, Charley Ah Lum, Ching Pong (or Grandfather), Jimmy Ah Kin, Joe Ah Yup and Lamie. Like most other parts of the Colony, there were no females amongst their number, many of the men having left wives and children behind in China.

Although cultural differences were predictable, the Chinese residents were, for the most part, valued members of the community. Except for those originating from Great Britain, the Chinese are Australia’s oldest continuous migrant group. There are still plants such as the arum lily and Chinese garlic growing wild in this paddock.