Lake Macquarie History

Lake Macquarie Community Through Time

Harmony Day, 21st March 2017

photo: swansea channell

While white settlement of Lake Macquarie established a predominantly British population, it is interesting to note that the area attracted people from all over the world from early on in its history. Although accurate statistical data cannot be extracted from the early days of settlement, mining deaths in the area show that during the late nineteenth century to mid twentieth century a few of these men came to Lake Macquarie from far afield. Countries of birth were listed as Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Malta, in addition to the majority of British miners.

The Gold Rush from 1852-1889 attracted many Chinese people to Australia, estimated to be around 40,000. Disappointment, mixed with racial prejudice, provoked many to return to China, though roughly 10% remained. A portion of those made their way to the shores of Lake Macquarie. They took part in the established fishing industry on the lake, and set up quite a few market gardens in the area. Suburbs known to have market gardens owned by Chinese settlers are

photo: chinese gardens

  • Cockle Creek,
  • Swansea,
  • Wangi Wangi,
  • Catherine Hill Bay,
  • Dora Creek,
  • Bolton Point,
  • Marks Point,
  • Arcadia Vale,
  • Marmong Point,
  • Nords Wharf,
  • Teralba,
  • Warners Bay.

Evidence of mistreatment of Chinese immigrants can be found in newspapers of the time.

"...who is a Chinese gardener at Catherine Hill Bay, in his evidence stated that defendants, entered his garden, destroyed two melons, pulled his tail, knocked him down, and otherwise maltreated him

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) , Saturday 9 February 1895

"A. Cadman was charged with assaulting Jimmy Ah Him in a railway train near Cardiff on the 6th inst."

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) , Friday 12 October 1900

Racial prejudice resulted in the government of the time passing laws that would stop non Europeans immigration. The Immigration Act of 1901, known as the "White Australia Policy", formed the basis of Australia's immigration policy until its abolition in 1966 by the Holt Government.

photo: naturalisation recipients

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that the second half of the twentieth century observed a marked increase of migrants to Lake Macquarie. Migrants from the UK and Ireland still dominated immigration with 6,984 noted in the censuses, followed by Europe (2,765), Oceania (1,683), Asia (1,389) North America (436), South Africa (307) and the Middle East (105). These figures do not take into account the 887 people who did not state their country of birth on the census form. The early part of the twentieth century, prior to 1941, the immigrant total in Lake Macquarie was 208 with approximately two thirds of those being from the UK.

According to the 2011 Census, figures indicate Lake Macquarie continues to grow its migrant population. The UK still accounts for a large proportion of new residents, though immigrants from other countries are on the rise.

In 2015 Community History and Council's Community Development worked together to celebrate, acknowledge and share the story of nine migrant women of Lake Macquarie - where they came from, why they moved here and what is different about their lives. Their stories can be found here

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

Council acknowledges traditional custodians throughout Australia. We commit to listening deeply to and collaborating with First Peoples in our work.

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