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Chinese workers

Chinese workers

In this scene Chinese workers are depicted clearing scrub and felling trees to make room for the growing settlement

Life in Australia before the 1850s was often very physically demanding. Here Chinese workers are depicted clearing scrub and felling trees to make room for the growing settlement.

Shortfall in the labour supply

The transportation of convicts to New South Wales had ceased in 1840 bringing about a shortfall in the labour supply. British and Chinese agents responded by shipping out indentured labourers from China. Most of the Chinese immigrants were from the densely populated southern provinces of Guangdong (Kwangtung) and Fujian (Fukien). Conditions in China, particularly in the south, were difficult and a significant rise in population had put pressure on the available resources. There were also foreign invasions, rebellions, severe floods and famines between the years 1849 and 1887.

On arrival in Australia, the Chinese labourers were assigned numerous jobs that helped to open up the growing settlement. Jobs included clearing the bush, digging wells and irrigation ditches, and working as shepherds on the new properties. Many new immigrants also started market gardens.