History of Gold in Australia
What a wonderful legacy the diggers of yesteryear have left in
regards to the rich and colorful times of the Australian gold rush!
Those who worked the goldfields in the 19th century were known as
diggers. These men forged the national image of the citizens that still
holds true today. Their open defiance for authority marked the nation as
a proud independent society that stands strong always. The effect the
gold rush had on the Australian economy cannot be ignored, either, as
the development of the nation resulted because of it.
In the year of
1851, Edward Hargraves reportedly found a seed of gold in a waterhole
close to Bathurst. Hargrave, who had just returned from a visit to the
California gold rush, was convinced upon this discovery that gold may
have been lurking all around him. The landscape is so similar that his
hunch proved correct. His homeland was as rich as America’s homeland. He
named the area Ophir and reported his find to the authorities. He was
then appointed Commissioner of Land and received a large reward and a
pension for life. Thus, the Australian gold rush had begun.
changed forever on that day. Ophir became home to over 1,000 prospectors
after Hargraves’ discovery. Gold fever was an epidemic in the early
days, so the colonial authorities appointed Commissioners to regulate
the diggings and collect the fees for each claim put forth. New South
Wales alone yielded 850,000 ounces of gold in 1852. When the neighboring
town of Victoria joined the gold rush, the authorities there tried to
prevent gold fever by offering a reward for any gold found in a 200 mile
radius of Melbourne.
The news traveled far and wide, and by the end of 1852, over 370,000
immigrants arrived in Australia, boosting the local economies to an all
time high. The gold rush was going strong by then, and the town of
Victoria was contributing 1/3 of the world’s gold output in the 1850’s.
The immigrant population nearly tripled at this time and overtook the
number of inmates that had been sent there over the last previous 70
The economy expanded and thrived as the gold sent out returned
in imports and trade. Local produce was an investment and stimulated by
the sudden interest in supply meeting demand. The need for
transportation and communication was critical by the late 1850’s. The
railroad and telegraph was introduced to this region to help meet some
of the challenges brought on by the gold rush.
Gold continued to be found in all parts of Australia except the
south, which did not produce a significant amount. Racism was also found
to exist as a protest was formed to get rid of the Chinese workers.
These workers were known to never tire. Motivation was fear and greed
and caused a distasteful moment in history. The gold rush did end the
transportation of convicts as diggers tried to catch a free ride to the