Honouring Cairns' sweet agricultural heritage
SOME of Cairns' earliest agricultural history will be recognised at a gala event tonight.
A commemorative plaque honouring the Hap Wah plantation, the first grower and producer of sugar in Cairns, will be unveiled at Stockland Cairns shopping centre, highlighting Chinese migrants' integral role in Far Northern development.
Stockland Cairns stands at the heart of the former 505ha Hap Wah plantation, which thrived from 1878-1886 manufacturing commercial sugar.
Chinese Australian historian Kevin Wong Hoy, who launched his new book Cheon of the Never Never, said it was wonderful to see an official Hap Wah commemoration.
"It was the time to do it because attitudes have changed. This is no longer a Chinese project. It is an Australian project with Chinese connotations," he said.
"This is the first time the city of Cairns has commemorated such an important event. It's excellent."
Hap Wah project co-ordinator Julia Volkmar, who scoured old newspapers and bank and cemetery records to accurately unveil the Hap Wah story, said the ceremony tied in with last year's 130-year pioneer mill crushing anniversary and 2013 Chinese New Year celebrations.
"It is still the Year of the Dragon, which it would have been when the mill first crushed," she said.
Hap Wah land covered 505ha and extended from Chinaman Creek to Anderson Rd, with Mulgrave Rd, formerly Hop Wah Rd, surveyed through its northern reach in 1879.
Tonight's plaque unveiling kicks off at 6.30pm at Stockland Cairns' northern hall near Angus & Coote Jewellers, while an exhibition of historic images will also be on display at Earlville Library, from tomorrow to February 23.
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A first: Cairns Historical Society's Les Sim, Cairns & District Chinese Association Inc's Mary Low, Kevin Wong Hoy and Julia Volkmar at Chinaman Ck, Earlville. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS