THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN AUSTRALIA

 

The Australian Gold Rush of the 1800's 

 

Ballerat c1850

 

Although gold had been discovered earlier it wasn't until February 1851 that the real gold rush began when a prospector discovered gold in Lewes Pond Creek, a tributary of the Macquarie River near Bathurst, west of the Blue Mountains not far from Sydney.

It did not take long for the word to spread and within days over a hundred diggers were panning and mining for gold. Within a few months the numbers had grown into thousands. And so they came from far and wide, all hoping to gain instant wealth.

This discovery of gold in New South Wales lead the Government of Victoria to offer reward of 200 pounds to anyone discovering payable gold within 200 miles of Melbourne.

Gold was subsequently found at Ballarat and Bendigo, these were alluvial goldfields (stream and river deposits). This discovery was to trigger a massive rush bringing prospectors from all over the world.

 

Businesses lost their workers and schools emptied. Ships' crews deserted and headed inland in droves. Fathers left their families to dig for gold, and whole families travelled the short distance from the city to set up camp on the goldfields. Mining camps appeared seemingly overnight with each new find, then moved on when the gold ran out to set up elsewhere.

By the end of 1851 250,000 onces had been taken from central Victoria alone. The population had grown from 80,000 to 500,000. The population of Australia as a whole increased from 430,000 to 1,700,000 by 1871

Gold placed the financial viability of Victoria and New South Wales beyond doubt, and Britain no longer had any excuse for withholding self-government.

 

Gold Mining around the turn of the century