In the 1840′s over 3000 Chinese men were imported as indentured labourers to fill a shortfall on pastoral properties created partly by the end of convict transportation. Then in the mid 1850s they came in increasing numbers, attracted to the opportunities of the Australia goldfields. The discovery of gold from the early 1850s and of tin from the export, for a short time outstripped wool By 1861 there were approximately 13,000 Chinese in New South Wales, with the majority (12,200) in the mining districts. Groups of Chinese men worked together on alluvial mining sites, digging and creating water races, panning, puddling and cradling to extract the ore. They were willing to work the tailings (waste) left by other miners. They were seen as hardworking, diligent and tireless.
Chinese-owned stores grew in response to the needs of fellow Chinese for familiar goods and services. They imported and sold food stuffs and utensils, provided opium supplies. The early stores were calico tents or slab huts; both easy to erect and dismantle. Some stores were of a more solid construction, such as On Gay & Co at Hill End, this store was run by two employees of the Sydney parent company.
Temples played a significant role in the daily lives of Chinese settles. A Chinese temple was built at Tambaroora in the 1870s of a slab and mud construction. In China, temples were traditionally constructed by people from the same village or sub-district, and this seemed to happen in New South Wales. Members of the community felt free to call in, seek advice, give thanks, walk with each other, worship their village or district deity and take time out from their labours.
In the 19th Century Chinese men emigrated with the aim of returning home. Their intention was to find work that could provide an income to support their family back home in China, also to eventually take a man back home with increased wealth. They followed job opportunities and some returned home to China permanently.
Only 82 Chinese died in the Hill End – Tambaroora – Lower Turon area from 1857 to 1874. A great many of these deaths were due to drowning, most other deaths were either by misadventure or suicide. The Chinese were buried and later dug up and their remains packed and returned to their families and villages in China. The Chinese cemetery in Moonlight Gully, Tambaroora, is now empty.