In 1851 gold fever lured tens of thousands of immigrants to Australia from all over the world, eager to strike it rich. Within 10 years, Australia's population trebled to more than one million people.
Glimpse life on the goldfields
Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park in Victoria is the most outstanding gold rush-era site in Australia in terms of the diversity of types, integrity and time-depth of its collection of mining sites. The miners huts, Chinese market gardens, mine headframes, stone footings and shallow shafts in a bush environment gives us a rare snapshot of how people lived and worked in the harsh environment of the gold fields.
Gold and the Australian nation
Gold, and the search for the precious metal, has played a major role in how our nation has developed. Its influence has left us with the enduring legacy of exploration, immigration, research, and industrial booms. The Eureka Stockade uprising was also an important event in the development of our democratic system.
The gold seekers who came to this part of the world brought an enormous range of skills, professions and cultures. The work they did in places such as Ballarat and Bendigo ushered in a long period of prosperity and the development of a modern industrial base in Australia.
The first gold strikes
The first major gold rushes took place in 1851 near Bathurst in New South Wales and at Ballarat in Victoria.
A sheep station hut keeper, Christopher Thomas Peters, had also found gold in Castlemaine, Victoria, but kept his discovery quiet. He and three friends earned a year's pay in a month by chipping gold from rocks with a hammer and chisel. However, word of the fabulous richness of the diggings soon got out and thousands of people started to explore the creeks around the area, finding gold close to the surface.
Major gold rushes followed in Queensland from 1866 and Western Australia from 1892, with thousands of hopeful prospectors joining the hunt each time.
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