Australia's gold rush — kidcyber (2023)

The Australian Gold Rush 1851

At a time when Australia was not yet a nation but still a number of separate British colonies, gold was discovered in a number of places, and the gold rush that followed changed our history. In the early days, traces of gold had been found but were hushed by the government, in fear that convicts and settlers would abandon the settlements to seek their fortunes. However, in February 1851, a man named Hargraves found gold in near Bathurst, New South Wales, and word quickly spread. Within a week there were over 400 people digging there for gold, and by June there were 2000. They named the goldfield Ophir after a city of gold in the Bible. The Australian gold rush had begun!

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Between 1851 and 1861, Australia produced one third of the world's gold.
By the end of the 19th century, Australia was the largest producer of gold in the world.

So many people went to the goldfield that there was a shortage of people doing other work such as farming, building, baking and so on. Governor Fitz Roy was worried that there would be violence and lawlessness at the goldfields, and he ordered that gold seekers must pay for a licence in order to dig for gold.

Gold in Victoria

In August 1851, part of New South Wales was made into a separate colony, which was named Victoria after the Queen. Many Victorians had gone to the Ophir goldfields, and businessmen, to keep people from leaving the new colony, offered a prize of 200 guineas for the first person who found gold in Victoria. At around the same time, gold was found at Clunes, at Buninyong , and at Anderson's Creek near Warrandyte .

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Towards the end of August 1851, James Reagan and John Dunlop discovered the richest goldfield the world has ever seen in a place the Aborigines called Balla arat, which means 'camping place', now the city of Ballarat. Other discoveries soon followed in Mount Alexander, now called Castlemaine, in Daylesford, Creswick, Maryborough, Bendigo and McIvor, now called Heathcote. Thousands of people left their homes and jobs and set off to the diggings to find their fortune. At the start of the gold rush, there were no roads to the goldfields, and no shops or houses there. People had to carry everything they needed. They travelled by horse or bullock, or by walking with a wheelbarrow loaded with possessions.

By the end of September 1851 there were about 10,000 people digging for gold near Ballarat. By 1852, the news had spread to England, Europe, China and America, and boatloads of people arrived in Melbourne and headed for the goldfields. The wealthy Bendigo goldfields were found by a woman, Margaret Kennedy, who saw gold in the creek bed in September 1851. She and a friend washed the gold using a breadmaking pan. Within a few months, there were about 20,000 people searching for gold in that area.

(Video) Gold Rush promo for kids

Getting to the goldfields

People came from all over the world, intending to strike it rich and return home to their own countries. For many, the journey to Australia took seven or eight months, and on the cheapest fares, conditions were tough. There were many epidemics of illness on the ships, and those who survived the journey arrived at the goldfields weak and unfit for the hard life on the diggings. Fresh food at the diggings was limited, and the basic diet was mutton, damper (a bread made of flour, water and salt, cooked over an open fire) and tea.

Clean water was in short supply because the diggers muddied the creeks, so cleanliness was difficult.

Also, sewerage was not disposed of in a sanitary fashion, and disease was common. There were a few doctors or chemists at the diggings, but not all were qualified. Many people died of diseases such as dysentery (an intestinal disease) or typhoid (a disease spread by bacteria in contaminated water).

There was violence on the goldfields. Thousands of people intent on making a fortune were all crammed together in a small location, in rough accommodation with few comforts, and tensions rose easily. There were fights, often over claim jumping. The journey to and from Melbourne was long and hard, and dangers included bushrangers who held up travellers and robbed them. The police were brutal, many were ex convicts who were looking out for themselves.

Life at the goldfields

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The space where someone was digging was called a 'claim'. To keep their claim, a person had to work on it every day except Sunday, so if no one was working a claim, someone else would take it. That was called claim jumping. A few women came with their husbands and worked with them searching for gold, and some single women came to search for gold for themselves. Women could dig for gold without having to pay for a licence.

At the diggings, the gullies were filled with claims, and so the higher ground nearby soon became huge campsites. People lived in tents at first, but later on huts made from canvas, wood and bark were built. Gradually there were stores and traders and other amenities, but life remained hard. Food and other goods had to be brought in by cart and so were very expensive. The settlements were all rather makeshift and temporary. Gold buyers and traders set up stores. Hotels and boarding houses were established, built of wood and lined with calico. The government camps were made of wood, and included a jail and accommodation for the soldiers. At some goldfields there were even theatres where travelling performers entertained the diggers.

A few people struck good finds of gold and became rich, but many did not. Mostly the people who did well were the tradesmen who sold food and equipment, or landowners who sold land to people who wanted to build homes and settle down after the gold rush.

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(Video) The Australian GOLD RUSH!

The lives of women at the goldfields

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At first there were mostly men at the diggings, but later on they were joined by their families. There were a few women who were diggers though, and there were women shopkeepers. Most women stayed home in towns with their families however, usually with very little money to live on, while their husbands travelled to live and work on the goldfields. A few years later, many women took their children and joined their husbands when conditions improved, although there were always more men than women at the goldfields, and life was hard for all.

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Women's work consisted of washing, ironing and cooking. They made bread, butter, jams, soap and clothes for the family.The living conditions were cramped, and there were few comforts at the diggings. Because the alluvial mining muddied the once clear creek water, clean drinkable water was hard to find. Often fresh water was carted in to the diggings and sold by the bucketful. Fresh vegetables and fruit were scarce and cost a lot.

(Video) The California Gold Rush cartoon 1849 (The Wild West)

Usually when a woman gave birth to a baby, she was assisted by other women. There was little in the way of medical assistance in cases of illness or to assist the women in childbirth. Many women died while giving birth. Epidemics of illnesses such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, typhoid and scarlet fever swept through the goldfields, and many men, women and children died.

There were women among the entertainers who travelled around performing at the various goldfields. The most famous of these was Lola Montez, best known for her Spider Dance. She was immensely popular wherever she entertained. Lola Montez was showered with small gold nuggets by the diggers whenever she finished a performance.

Chinese people at the goldfields

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News of the Australian goldrush reached China in 1853, when that country had been suffering from years of war and famine. To raise money for the fare to Australia, a man would take a loan from a local trader, agreeing to send regular repayments. His wife and children stayed behind, and worked for the trader if the man was unable to repay the loan. In an attempt to limit the number of Chinese at the goldfields, a law was passed in 1885 that any Chinese person entering Victoria would pay ten pounds tax and one pound for a protection fee, for the right to mine and live in the colony. No one entering Victoria from any other country had to pay this tax. However, this did not reduce the numbers of Chinese. They landed in South Australia and walked several hundred kilometres to reach the Victorian goldfields.

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When they arrived at the goldfields, the Chinese stayed together in large teams, usually from the same village, with a head man in charge. Groups were allocated duties such as mining, cooking, or growing vegetables for the team. The Chinese were generally very hardworking and honest, and were quiet and law abiding. They lived simply, especially as they were sending money home to repay their fare. Much of the alluvial gold was running out and the Chinese miners re-worked claims that had been abandoned, preferring not to go deep underground for fear of offending the mountain gods, and they collected gold that had been missed. They also saw other opportunities to make money, and worked at other jobs around the diggings, such as washing clothes, selling vegetables they'd grown, selling cooked food or herbal medicines and so on.

There was ignorance about Chinese customs and culture, and the Chinese seemed very strange and different to the European diggers. The people at the diggings were suspicious of them and resentful of their methods of mining. The appearance of the Chinese, with their pigtails and unfamiliar clothes, their habit of going barefoot and of carrying loads hanging from bamboo poles carried across their shoulders, their religion, all made them the target of a great deal of racism and prejudice. Local Chinese societies came into being, to advise newly arrived Chinese about how to fit in.

(Video) The Australian Gold Rush (animation)

Some Chinese returned home after the gold rush, but many stayed here. They found jobs, set up market gardens, restaurants or laundries. They brought their families to Australia. Gradually the Chinese became the accepted and respected group in Australian society that they are today.

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FAQs

What was the gold rush short answer? ›

gold rush, rapid influx of fortune seekers to the site of newly discovered gold deposits. Major gold rushes occurred in the United States, Australia, Canada, and South Africa in the 19th century. The first major gold strike in North America occurred near Dahlonega, Georgia, in the late 1820s.

What happened in the Australian gold rush? ›

On February 12, 1851, a prospector discovered flecks of gold in a waterhole near Bathurst, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Soon, even more gold was discovered in what would become the neighboring state of Victoria. This began the Australian Gold Rush, which had a profound impact on the country's national identity.

What was the Australian gold rush for kids? ›

The gold rushes attracted people from all over the world to Australia. They came from the United States, Germany, France, Hungary, China, and other countries. These immigrants created incredible population growth. The population of Australia grew from 438,000 in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871.

Who caused the gold rush? ›

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) was a gold rush that began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.

Who found gold first in Australia? ›

Edward Hammond Hargraves is credited with finding the first payable goldfields at Ophir, near Bathurst, New South Wales, on 12 February 1851. News of gold spread quickly around the world and in 1852 alone, 370,000 immigrants arrived in Australia. By 1871, the national population had trebled to 1.7 million.

How long did the gold rush last in Australia? ›

Australian gold rushes
Gold diggings, Ararat, Victoria, by Edward Roper, 1854
DateMay 1851 – c. 1914
LocationAustralia
TypeGold rush
ThemeSignificant numbers of workers (both from other areas within Australia and from overseas) relocated to areas in which gold had been discovered
2 more rows

Why did the Australian Gold Rush start? ›

The discovery of gold in New South Wales in 1851 began the first of a series of gold rushes in colonial Australia. The gold rushes transformed the colonies and shaped Australia's population and society. The lure of gold attracted miners, known as diggers, from all over the world.

Is there still gold in Australia? ›

Australia (especially Western Australia) is the one of the world's top producers of gold. About 60% of Australia's gold resources occur in Western Australia, with the remainder in all other States and the Northern Territory.

What was the Australian gold rush called? ›

The Australian Gold Rush 1851

Within a week there were over 400 people digging there for gold, and by June there were 2000. They named the goldfield Ophir after a city of gold in the Bible. The Australian gold rush had begun!

Who was the first person to find gold? ›

The first person or civilization to discover gold is the Ancient Egyptians. They mined gold in Nubia around 2450 BC. An Egyptian alchemist named Zosimos was the first to find pure gold (24 centuries before Columbus reached the Americas).

Why were gold rushes so important? ›

The discovery of the precious metal at Sutter's Mill in January 1848 was a turning point in global history. The rush for gold redirected the technologies of communication and transportation and accelerated and expanded the reach of the American and British Empires.

How did Australia benefit from the gold rush? ›

First, the gold rush impacted the Australian economy by bringing substantial wealth to Australian shores as an export, stimulating secondary industries, driving population growth and restructuring the manufacturing sector. Second, the gold rush helped shape Australia's socio-political climate.

Where is gold found? ›

Gold is primarily found as the pure, native metal. Sylvanite and calaverite are gold-bearing minerals. Gold is usually found embedded in quartz veins, or placer stream gravel. It is mined in South Africa, the USA (Nevada, Alaska), Russia, Australia and Canada.

How did miners find gold? ›

At first, miners relied on "panning" gold--swirling water from a stream in a shallow pan until the heavier, gold-bearing materials fell to the bottom while the water and lighter sand fell out over the rim.

HOW LONG HAS Gold Rush been on? ›

Gold Rush (TV series)
Gold Rush
Original networkDiscovery Channel
Picture format1080i
Original releaseDecember 3, 2010 – present
Chronology
14 more rows

What are 7 interesting facts about gold? ›

17 Fun Facts About Gold
  • Gold Comes from Meteorites. Nearly all the world's gold came from meteorites that bombarded the planet over 200 million years after it formed. ...
  • Gold Is Malleable. ...
  • Gold Is Alloyed With Other Metals. ...
  • Gold Is Yellow. ...
  • Gold Is Ductile. ...
  • Gold Is Nontoxic. ...
  • Gold Is Pliable. ...
  • Gold Is Dense.

Was the gold rush a good thing? ›

The discovery of the precious metal at Sutter's Mill in January 1848 was a turning point in global history. The rush for gold redirected the technologies of communication and transportation and accelerated and expanded the reach of the American and British Empires.

How much gold was in Gold Rush? ›

In total, it's estimated that 750,000 pounds of gold were discovered during the Gold Rush. It reached its peak in 1852 when prospectors found $90 million worth of gold — that's $2.7 billion in 2021 dollars!

Who owns gold in Australia? ›

As part of Australia's official reserve assets, the Reserve Bank holds an amount of gold. Including gold that is on loan, the RBA's holdings amount to 80 tonnes, with the full value of these holdings recorded as an asset on the RBA's balance sheet.

Where is most gold found in Australia? ›

Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

Around three quarters of gold mined in Australia is in this area and the 'golden mile' was once considered the richest square mile of land on earth.

Who found the biggest piece of gold in Australia? ›

Considered by most authorities to be the biggest gold nugget ever found, the Welcome Stranger was found at Moliagul, Victoria, Australia, in 1869 by John Deason and Richard Oates. It weighed gross, over 2,520 troy ounces (78 kg; 173 lb) and returned over 2,284 troy ounces (71.0 kg; 156.6 lb) net.

What were the three main impacts of the gold rush on Australia? ›

In 1851 gold-seekers from around the world began pouring into the colonies, changing the course of Australian history. The gold rushes greatly expanded Australia's population, boosted its economy, and led to the emergence of a new national identity.

How many people stayed in Australia after the Gold Rush? ›

Many of the migrants during the gold rushes would have dreamed of making their fortune on the diggings and returning to a better life in their home country, but the statistics show that about two-thirds of diggers from continental Europe, and about 80% of the British migrants, remained in Australia.

Did people stay in Australia after the Gold Rush? ›

Many of the immigrants who'd originally come to try their hand at gold-digging, chose to stay on and settle in the colonies, ultimately quadrupling the population of Australia between 1851 (430,000) and 1871 (1.7 million).

What problems did the Gold Rush cause in Australia? ›

Disease was rife upon the goldfields, where poor sanitation meant that refuse and excrement were liable to end up in the rivers that supplied drinking water for those on the diggings. Dysentery, typhus and other contagious diseases were all represented.

How did the Gold Rush affect people's lives? ›

The influx of gold resulted in the expansion of manufacturing and the service industries, as many entrepreneurial newcomers took advantage of the demand for mining materials, lumber, clothing and transportation.

What was life like in the Gold Rush? ›

Life in the gold fields exposed the miner to loneliness and homesickness, isolation and physical danger, bad food and illness, and even death. More than anything, mining was hard work. Fortune might be right around the corner, but so too was failure.

How much gold is worth? ›

MONEX Live Gold Spot Prices
Gold Spot PricesTodayChange
Gold Prices Per Ounce$1,754.00-9.00
Gold Prices Per Gram$56.39-0.29
Gold Prices Per Kilo$56,391.10-289.35

Can I keep gold I find? ›

If you find gold you are free to keep it without telling a sole. You don't have to report it to the government and you don't have to pay taxes on it until you sell it. This public land is generally managed by either the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. Most of it is found in the western United States.

How does gold look like? ›

Gold has a golden to yellow color. Most native gold is alloyed with silver, and if the silver content is high enough, the specimen will have a whitish yellow color.

Who discovered Australia? ›

While Indigenous Australians have inhabited the continent for tens of thousands of years, and traded with nearby islanders, the first documented landing on Australia by a European was in 1606. The Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon landed on the western side of Cape York Peninsula and charted about 300 km of coastline.

Where did the Australian gold rush finish? ›

Thousands of people came to Australia in the hope of finding a lot of gold and becoming rich. The rush started in 1851 when gold was found near Bathurst, New South Wales and ended with the last rush in 1893 to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Who were the main people in the Gold Rush? ›

California Gold Rush People
  • Samuel Brannan. Samuel Brannan (1819-1889) was a Mormon elder who came to San Francisco in 1846 in hopes of building a new Mormon settlement there. ...
  • Leland Stanford. ...
  • Levi Strauss. ...
  • John Sutter. ...
  • Mark Twain.

Who named gold? ›

“Gold” derives from the Proto-Germanic gulþą, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European ǵʰelh₃-. The Proto-Indo-European word means “to shine, to gleam; to be yellow.” Gold is the only naturally yellow metal, so ancient civilizations named it after its stunning color.

Which Colour is gold? ›

Gold or golden is a yellowish orange color, or orange-tan color that is a bit like the color of the metal gold. The actual color of the metal, used for example in gilding, is called Metallic gold. Gold paint can be made by mixing brown, yellow paint and orange paint.

How was gold born? ›

Gold is thought to have been produced in supernova nucleosynthesis, and from the collision of neutron stars, and to have been present in the dust from which the Solar System formed.

What was the biggest gold rush ever? ›

The 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in California sparked the greatest gold rush of all time. Hopeful prospectors from around the world, known as forty-niners, streamed to the hills of California.

Did the gold rush ruin the environment? ›

During the U.S. gold rush, hydraulic mining operations in California completely denuded forested landscapes, altered the course of rivers, increased sedimentation that clogged river beds and lakes and released enormous amounts of mercury onto the landscape. California wildcat miners used an estimated 10 million pounds ...

Who benefited from the Gold Rush? ›

However, only a minority of miners made much money from the Californian Gold Rush. It was much more common for people to become wealthy by providing the miners with over-priced food, supplies and services. Sam Brannan was the great beneficiary of this new found wealth.

Why is it called a Gold Rush? ›

California Gold Rush, rapid influx of fortune seekers in California that began after gold was found at Sutter's Mill in early 1848 and reached its peak in 1852. According to estimates, more than 300,000 people came to the territory during the Gold Rush.

How did the Gold Rush affect slavery? ›

In 1848 when the gold rush hit, white southerners flocked to the state with hundreds of enslaved black people, forcing them to toil in gold mines, often hiring them out to cook, serve, or perform a variety of labor. Sometimes fortunes were amassed on the backs of this free labor.

How did the gold rush affect Australian society? ›

The 1850s gold rushes altered the nature of Australian society permanently. It caused a huge influx of migrants, a sudden increase in wealth, and was significant in bringing about a desire for self-government and the end of the transportation of convicts.

How did the gold rush affect food in Australia? ›

The gold rush had a significant impact on food supplies in Australia. Many rural labourers deserted their jobs on farms to go searching for gold. This affected the production of locally grown food. In addition, the population swelled, creating higher demand.

Why is gold important to the Australian economy? ›

Gold is Australia's third largest export industry. Today, the gold mining industry helps sustain our national prosperity through exports, high-wage jobs, investment and tax and royalty revenues.

What gold rush means? ›

gold rush. noun. a large-scale migration of people to a territory where gold has been found. Slang. Emoji.

What is a gold answer? ›

What is gold? Gold is an element with an atomic symbol as Au and with atomic number as 79. In its cleanest form, it is a dense, bright, marginally reddish yellow, delicate, malleable, and ductile element. Chemically, it is a transition element and element of group 11.

What was the gold rush facts for kids? ›

Gold Rush Facts for Kids

Miners discovered over 700,000 pounds of gold in the California Gold Rush. From 1848 to 1849, the Californian population grew by over 100,000. Samuel Brannan was the wealthiest man during the California Gold Rush.

Who was the first to find gold? ›

The first person or civilization to discover gold is the Ancient Egyptians. They mined gold in Nubia around 2450 BC. An Egyptian alchemist named Zosimos was the first to find pure gold (24 centuries before Columbus reached the Americas).

Was the Gold Rush a good thing? ›

The discovery of the precious metal at Sutter's Mill in January 1848 was a turning point in global history. The rush for gold redirected the technologies of communication and transportation and accelerated and expanded the reach of the American and British Empires.

Why was the Gold Rush so important? ›

The discovery of the precious metal at Sutter's Mill in January 1848 was a turning point in global history. The rush for gold redirected the technologies of communication and transportation and accelerated and expanded the reach of the American and British Empires.

Who is the golden girl answer? ›

Golden Girl is the autobiography of PT Usha. Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha better known as P T Usha was undoubtedly one of India's greatest athletes and rightfully called the 'Queen of Indian Track and Field'.

Can gold be made? ›

Yes, gold can be created from other elements. But the process requires nuclear reactions, and is so expensive that you currently cannot make money by selling the gold that you create from other elements.

What is gold used for? ›

Today, gold still occupies an important place in our culture and society – we use it to make our most prized objects: wedding rings, Olympic medals, money, jewellery, Oscars, Grammys, crucifixes, art and many more.

How long did the gold rushes last for? ›

The Australian gold rush was a large number of gold discoveries in Australia. Thousands of people came to Australia in the hope of finding a lot of gold and becoming rich. The rush started in 1851 when gold was found near Bathurst, New South Wales and ended with the last rush in 1893 to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

What problems did the Gold Rush have? ›

As the Eastern United States met the West in the months and years following the 1848 gold discovery at Sutter's Mill, California's shores and gold-filled hills became riddled with problems the eager prospectors might have thought they had left behind: racial tension, concern over rainfall, economic disparities between ...

How much gold was in gold rush? ›

In total, it's estimated that 750,000 pounds of gold were discovered during the Gold Rush. It reached its peak in 1852 when prospectors found $90 million worth of gold — that's $2.7 billion in 2021 dollars!

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