Lambing Flat was the name of a gold field in New South Wales, Australia. People were digging for gold at Lambing Flat in the 1860s. It was part of the Burrangong goldfields which also included Spring Creek, Stoney Creek, Back Creek, Wombat, Blackguard Gully, and Tipperary Gully. Burrangong is now the town of Young, New South Wales. Frank Gardiner, a bushranger, had a butcher shop at Lambing Flat. Ben Hall, who also became a bushranger, sold cattle to Gardiner for his shop.
Lambing Flat Riot
Lambing Flat is most famous for an anti Chinese riot. This was just one of a number of riots on the Burrangong goldfields between November 1860 and September 1861. Several place names are sometimes used when talking about these events. Lambing Flat, the name which is name used most often, was a grass area where sheep were kept. It was where one of the more violent riots took place.
Dislike of the Chinese
There were many things that made the European miners dislike the Chinese miners on the gold fields in the 1850s. Most of the trouble was the way Chinese miners looked for gold. The gold was alluvial gold, small pieces of gold mixed in with soil and clay close to the surface. It was found in very old river beds called "leads" which had been buried for thousands of years. Getting the gold did not need much skill, but it was hard work. European miners worked alone or in small groups. They often left one area of ground to dig in another where others had said there was more gold. Many gold miners did not make enough money to buy food and clothing. Only a few miners became rich.
The government began to tax the miners by making them pay for "Miner's Licence". They had to pay to be allowed to dig rather than pay for the gold they had found. The miners did not like this tax. There were several angry and violent protests in Victoria and New South Wales. The most famous was at the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat, Victoria where over 30 miners were killed.
The Chinese usually worked in large groups of 30 - 100 men. They were able to share the small amounts of gold they found. They looked for gold on land that other miners had searched before. The European miners thought that the land was still their land. The Chinese miners lived and worked together. Most of them had been farmers in China. They were used to long hours of hard work. They were used to basic food and houses. It has been said that they "rarely paid for the mining leases". They were happy to find a lot of small pieces of gold, instead of looking for one big piece that would make them rich.
The first public display of anti-Chinese feelings took place in Bendigo in July 1854. Some these displays were attempts to keep the Chinese from working on the goldfields. There were fights between European and Chinese miners at Daylesford and Castlemaine. A group of Chinese on their way to the Victorian goldfields found gold at Ararat. They were forced off the new goldfield by European miners. The same things were also taking place in New South Wales. European miners forced the Chinese off the diggings at Rocky River in New England in 1856. Serious fights took place Adelong in 1857 and Tambaroora in 1858. There was a big riot at the Buckland River goldfield near Beechworth in July 1857.
There were not many Chinese miners in New South Wales. Victoria had cut the number of Chinese arriving by making them pay a tax of £10 to enter Victoria. The Chinese were now starting to arrive in NSW instead. The government tried to stop the Chinese coming in 1858, but the parliament would not pass the new laws. In 1860 the Chinese and British governments signed the Convention of Peking. This meant that Chinese and British people would have the same rights in each country. Australia was a British colony, so could New South Wales keep out people from China? A new law, the Chinese Immigration Regulation Bill, was being talked about in Parliament when the first gold miners were getting to Burrangong.
Trouble began in 1860 with the starting of the Miners Protective League. The European miners held big meetings, called roll ups, to force the Chinese to leave the goldfields. They would put up signs telling the Chinese to leave. At first there was not a lot of trouble. Most of the Chinese moved to another part of the goldfield, with some going back soon after. This happened a few times over the next eight months. As long as the Chinese stayed in certain places on the goldfield at Burrangong, the European miners would put up with them.
The most well known riot took place on the night of 30 June, 1861. A group of about 3,000 miners marched to Lambing Flat led by a brass band and two men carrying the roll up banner. They forced the Chinese to leave Lambing Flat. Tents were set on fire and items belonging to the Chinese were smashed or stolen. They then went to the Back Creek diggings and set fire to more tents. Many of the Chinese were cruelly beaten, but no one was killed. About 1,200 Chinese left the area and set up camp near Roberts' farm at Currowang, 20km away. Two things started the riot. In Sydney the parliament did not pass the anti-Chinese laws. Also an untrue story went around the goldfields. The story said that a new group of 1,500 Chinese were on the road to Burrangong. The police got to Burrangong in the next few days. They arrested three of the leaders of the riot. The miners were angry and on the night of July 14, 1,000 miners attacked the police camp. The police fired their guns and rode their horses into the miners. One miner was killed and many were hurt.
The police were forced to leave. A group of 280 soldiers, sailors and extra police came from Sydney and stayed on the goldfields for a year. The Chinese came back and lived in a separate part of the diggings. The leaders of the riots were arrested and two were sent to gaol. At the end of the year, Burrangong was quiet and the Chinese were still there.
- The Lambing Flat Roll Up Banner 
- Thompson, S. (August 2006). "Lambing Flat Roll Up Banner". Objects Through Time. Migrant Heritage Centre. Retrieved September 14, 2008.