History of Chinese Market Gardens in NSW:
WALLY HA (Pictured here is Wally’s son Gordon)
Retired market gardener; Chairman, Australian Chinese Grower’s Association, NSW; Chairman, Yiu Ming Society, recorded in Stephen, A. (ed) ‘The Lions of Retreat Street: a Chinese temple in inner Sydney’, Powerhouse Publishing in assoc. with Hale & Iremonger, Sydney NSW, 1997
I was born at Tian Ya/Tian Ngar village, Gaoyao/Gouyiu county, Guangdong province in 1929. I quit school in my fifth year to do farm work, growing rice and some vegetables. Life was very hard in my village so I went to Hong Kong and worked in a metal processing factory. I eventually came to Australia in 1952 as my uncle was here working as a market gardener at La Perouse. I was twenty‑two when I arrived and it was a really hard there. The immigration authorities did not allow us to come with our dependants so I was unable to bring my wife. My wife finally came out in 1967. I would send money to her and my four children and would see them every two years. Europeans discriminated against us. The Westerners who lived near by slandered us and their children even threw stones at us. But the Aboriginal people living at La Perouse did not; we lived in harmony with them.
My uncle was a shareholder in the Tiy Wah garden which was run by several partners. This garden at La Perouse covers about five acres of land and is rented from the government. It was very hard at the beginning. It was all manual work. It was cheap labour, £8 a week. We had to turn the soil by hand and carry water in two buckets hung from a pole over our shoulders. After several years we began to buy some machines, rotary hoes and sprays. Sometimes we worked eight hours a day, sometimes we went to work on the land at daybreak and worked till it was dark, six days a week. We took holidays during Chinese New Year and at other Chinese festivals. We sold the produce direct at Haymarket, now out at Flemington. Two of my sons, Gordon and Terry, have taken up the same work at La Perouse. I retired in 1988. When I started we grew only European vegetables, lettuce, cabbage, rhubarb, turnip, celery. Now we grow Chinese vegetables as well, such as baby buk choy, chinese broccoli, in choy, on choy as well as watercress, dill, coriander, spring onions and so on….