Gold Rush in Australia

Gold is found in rocks and in the ground.
People came to look for gold in Australia.
It was called the Gold Rush.
It was a hard life digging for gold.
Some people became rich but lots did not.

Gold is a soft, yellow precious metal. It is malleable, which means it can be hammered or pressed without breaking or cracking. It has been valued for centuries, long before recorded history. Gold is found as nuggets or grains in rocks, or washed down in river beds.

Gold in California and Australia
In 1851, during the time that there was a gold rush in California USA, a gold rush began in Australia. The gold in California was mainly in the form of very fine grains, called gold dust.

However, in Australia, it was not unusual for gold nuggets, some very large, to be found.

The California Goldfields. Illustration © [2008] Jupiterimages Corporation

The Largest Australian Nuggets
In October 1872 Holtermann's Nugget was found. It is the largest specimen of gold ever found. It weighed 286 kg and measured 1.5 metres long. Also famous are: The Hand of Faith (27.2 kg), the Welcome Stranger (73.4 kg) and the Welcome (69.9 kg) nuggets.

The Australian gold rush begins
Small amounts of gold were found in New South Wales in the early days of the colony, but the authorities hushed it up. However, in February 1851 a man named Hargraves found gold in near Bathurst, 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!

Between 1851 and 1861, Australia produced one third of the world's gold.
By the end of that 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.

The Victorian goldfields
In August 1851, part of New South Wales was made a separate colony, and was named Victoria after the Queen. Many Victorians had gone to the 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 Andersons Creek near Warrandyte and at Buninyong. Towards the end of August, 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.

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 hopeful diggers arrived in Melbourne and headed for the goldfields. Many stayed on in Australia, moving on to other Australian goldfields as the gold became harder for individuals to find for themselves.

Click here to see a map showing a few of the main Australian goldfields.

Click here to read about the California Gold Rush

Click here to see a timeline of the Australian Gold Rush:

Click here to see a timeline of the gold rush in Alaska from 1861

Searching for Gold Life on the Australian Goldfields Women on the Australian Goldfields
Chinese on the Australian Goldfields Rebellion: The Eureka Stockade Gold Rush in Western Australia

kidcyberQuest: online student webquest assignment about gold

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If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Gold Rush in Australia [Online] (2000)

Updated April 2014 ©