Sunnybank Chinese Gardens

Stage Number: MBSH.02.10.26

Group: Southern

Local Study Area: Sunnybank-Banoon

Epoch: Early 20th Century

Street Address: 17 Stones Road

Latitude & Longitude: -27.58182222,153.05300278

Time Link: 1910

Map Link: TBA

Image Time Point: TBA

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The story goes, “Chinamen,” known as Charlie and George, started gardens on the creek bank near the Sunnybank railway station and later near Banoon. They created a network of small canals and used watering cans on each end of a bamboo pole to water their crops. The Chinese were all single men who worked their gardens under instructions from the head men – smoked opium in pipe made from the trunk of bamboo – they took their vegetables to the Brisbane Markets in Roma Street by road with horse and cart. The folk story says the Chinese gardeners stayed and worked the soil until it had lost its fertility and then they quietly departed about 1930. The story covers over a richer history too long ignored by the local community. Recent research from Dr Hilda Maclean found, “Chinese market gardeners were particularly valued for their ability to convert low swampy land into highly productive food sources. Unlike other market gardeners in the Sunnybank area, they tended to grow quick rotation crops (lettuces, cabbages, radishes, shallots, carrots, etc.) rather than fruit trees and relied on diverting and managing surface water. When this dried up, they drew water, usually by bucket, from the numerous creeks.” By the 1930s the practice of drawing creek water led to conflicts with local Anglo-Celtic farmers who resented the competition in food produce from the Chinese. Often racial/ethnic tensions are underlined by fears about economic security in a changing landscape. Maclean’s work has been able to identify a number of the Sunnybank Market Gardeners, including Ah Loui and Jock Hing. It is fitting that much more of the history emerges in an area that has become Queensland’s largest ethnic Chinese diaspora (including nationals from Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere). It was something that the local Anglo-Celtic farmers of the the earlier epoch would never been able to comprehend.


Sunnybank: paddocks to pavements, Sunnybank State High School P& C Association, 1985, p. 41; Hilda Maclean. “Particularly suited to market gardens”: An horticultural history of Sunnybank . A Paper Presented to the Sunnybank District History Group, February 2017.

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