Silence…. Except for the faint trickle of running water and the occasional splash of nearby Black Swans, the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden was peaceful and quiet.
Although only four kilometres from the thriving town of Young, in Australia’s Hilltops Region, the site could just as easily be a world away from anywhere.
It’s particularly hard to imagine the violent events that occurred nearby almost 160 years ago, during tension between Chinese and European gold miners.
These events, known as the Lambing Flat riots, led to a law called the Chinese Immigration Restriction Act – the beginning of the so-called ‘White Australia Policy.’
However, that was obviously well in the past in 1996, when the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden was established to recognise the contribution of the Chinese community to Young and Australia in general.
It would, indeed, be hard to think of a more restful and tranquil place.
We visited as part of a brief swing through the Hilltops Region, a popular tourist area in the south-west of New South Wales, the most populous State in Australia.
Hilltops Region covers a diverse, historic and relaxing rural area centred on the towns of Young, Boorowa and Harden-Murrumburrah.
An afternoon storm cleared as we arrived at the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden and the sun breaking through the clouds spotlighted an amazing mix of colours.
The light sparkled from wet rocks and the colourful plants and trees were reflected from all sides as we crossed the bridge to the garden.
After making our way past the marble lion sculptures that guard the garden entrance, we wandered down a pathway covered in yellow and red fallen leaves until we reached the Pool of Tranquility.
The view across the garden to the aptly named Chinaman’s Dam was stunning and we sat in silence, soaking up the beauty of the surroundings. It was good for the soul.
Sitting in a valley surrounded by low hills, Young is the commercial and service centre for an agricultural area long known for its stone fruit, sheep, cattle, pigs, cereals, and vineyards.
Under the Hilltops Region banner, the area is also a key part of a growing tourist trade focused in part on history, culture, arts, crafts and boutique farm-gate produce such as fruit jams and spreads.
And, the riots at Lambing Flat (an early name for Young) are a significant part of that heritage. Gold was found in the area in 1860 and, within months, there were about 20,000 prospectors in Lambing Flat – of which an estimated 2,000 were Chinese.
Apparently believing that the Chinese miners were abusing the settlement’s scarce water resources, Europeans attacked and drove off the Chinese.
When about 11 men were arrested, thousands of miners rallied and demanded their release. The men went to court, but were set free.
Eventually, police ranks were boosted; one European miner was killed; the courthouse and trooper’s barracks were burned down; shots were exchanged; and the Riot Act was read for the only time in New South Wales.
Controversial then, the gold rush period is now viewed as extremely significant in Australia’s development. Young boasts an excellent folk museum, which draws large numbers of visitors.
The town has gone from strength to strength. Among other things, it is regarded as the nation’s premier cherry-growing district.
And, to get a complete idea of the development of the area’s culture, we thoroughly recommend a visit to Chinaman’s Dam and the stunning Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Garden.