In May of 1851, a prospector named Edward Hargraves was panning in an area northeast of Orange in NSW when he found a payload of gold. Up until that point, there had only been whispers of Australia’s vast gold reserves, which had quickly been quashed by local officials for fear that settlers and workers would abandon their post in search for greater riches. However, once Hargraves found that first payload of gold, news travelled quickly and before a week had passed there were over 400 people digging in that area, by the end of the month there were over 2000. The events that followed that first discovery of gold made Australia one of the richest countries in the world at the time and helped us become the nation we are today. In this article, we look at just a few of the ways that the Australian gold rush between 1851 and 1861 changed the course of our nation’s history.
The beginning of multicultural Australia
The discovery of the world’s richest goldfield in August 1851 occurred in a place that the local indigenous people referred to as balla arat (now the city of Ballarat). By 1852, news of the riches being uncovered there had spread to China, America, Europe and England and around 370,000 immigrants set out for Australia in the hopes of striking it rich. The number of migrants to Australia in this period outstripped the total number of convicts who had been brought to the country in the previous 70 years and the new arrivals played a pivotal role in turning Australia into the multicultural nation it is today.
The Eureka Stockade
Although the Eureka Stockade in 1854 lasted for less than half an hour, the spirit of civil disobedience and rebellion against the crown that arose on that day marked the beginning of democracy in Australia.
The making of marvellous Melbourne
The incredible wealth that flowed from Australia during the gold rush years helped us to evolve from a convict colony into one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Between 1851 and 1861, Australia produced a third of the gold in the world and this gave government the means to build infrastructure like railways and telegraphs, and build many of the now iconic public buildings in Melbourne and Ballarat.
Melbourne on the Move bring history to life with day tours to the heart of the Victorian goldfields. Book online or get in touch with us to learn more by calling 1300 55 86 86.