Recently I wrote to the City of South Perth proposing a heritage project honouring the legacy of the Chinese market gardeners in South Perth.
Between the 1880s and 1952 the South Perth foreshore area between Mends Street and the Causeway was home to a number of Chinese market gardens that were operated on leasehold land. The Chinese had immigrated to Australia to join the gold rush in Kalgoorlie but were denied miners’ rights.
Resourcefully, some of them turned to market gardening and the South Perth foreshore was an ideal site due to its close proximity to the Swan River and fresh water. For a period of about 80 years the Chinese gardens in South Perth supplied local and city markets and also individual customers with quality fresh fruit and vegetables.
By the 1940s attempts to evict the Chinese gardeners had begun and by 1952 their significant presence came to an end when the last of them, Wong Chew, was evicted from his home and garden located at the western end of Sir James Mitchell Park.
The Sue family of Kensington were given Wong Chew’s old tools and implements and have a collection of memorabilia left by growers.
A heritage walk along the South Perth foreshore could trace the history and location of the gardens, giving recognition to an integral part of South Perth’s history. Alternatively, a Chinese-style pavilion erected on the foreshore detailing the history of the market gardens would be an excellent way to recognise the early influence of the Chinese in South Perth.
See the Southern Gazette’s article of 16 November 2010 on the market gardens: