The Victorian gold rush was a period in the history of Victoria, Australia approximately between 1851 and the late 1860s. In 10 years the Australian population nearly tripled
The Victorian gold rush, which occurred in Australia in 1851 soon after the California gold rush, was the biggest of several Australian gold rushes. That gold rush was highly significant to Australia’s, and especially Victoria's and Melbourne's, political and economic development. With the Australian gold rushes came the construction of the first railways and telegraph lines, multiculturalism and racism, the Eureka Stockade and the end of penal transportation..
Mitchells Creek Goldfield is claimed to be Australia's first goldfield. It is located at Bodangora near Wellington, New South Wales.
Gold was apparently first found in this area by a shepherd called Hugh McGregor in Mitchell’s Creek on the Montefiore's squatting run, Nanima in 1848 (about four years before the “official” discovery of gold in Australia). Newspaper reports of early prospecting are a bit confusing as another Mitchells Creek (now called Sunny Corner) was also a goldfield and was located 80 miles (130 km) to the south–east.
The Bathurst Free Press noted on the 25th May 1850 “Neither is there' any doubt in the fact that Mr. McGregor found a considerable quantity of the precious metal some years ago, near Mitchell's Creek, and it is surmised he 'still, gets more in the same locality”. Bathurst Free Press 25 May 1850 which pre-dates the extravagant claims of Edward Hargraves to be the first discover of gold in Australia.
In 1851 a prospector by the name of Edward Hammond Hargraves proclaimed that he had discovered gold on a site he called “Ophir” in Bathurst, New South Wales Australia.
On July 1, 1951 the British Government separated the area from New South Wales, proclaiming a new Colony of Victoria.
Nerrena Fossickers in Nerrena Creek outside Ballarat
During this era Victoria dominated the world's gold output. Ballarat for a while ranked number one in terms of gold production.
Gold discoveries in Beechworth, Ballarat and Bendigo sparked gold rushes similar to the California Gold Rush. At its peak some two tonnes of gold per week flowed into the Treasury Building in Melbourne.
The gold era evolved Victoria from a sheep grazing economy based around squatters, into an emerging industrial base and small (yeoman) farming community. The social impact of gold was that Victoria's population boomed and the lack of available land for small farming generated massive social tensions, especially among Victorian Aborigines. Those on-going tensions around land and selection (small farming) culminated in the Kelly Outbreak of 1878.
Melbourne was a major Boomtown during the gold rush. The city became the centre of the colony with rail networks radiating to the regional towns and ports. Politically, Victoria's goldmines introduced male franchise and secret ballots, based on Chartist principles. As gold dwindled, pressures for land reform, protectionism and political reform grew and generated social struggles. A Land Convention in Melbourne during 1857 demanded land reform. Melbourne became one of the great cities of the British Empire and the world. Following the huge gold rushes were the Chinese in 1854. Their presence on the goldfields of Bendigo, Beechworth and the Bright district resulted in riots, entry taxes, killings and segregation in the short term and became the foundations of the White Australia policy. In short, the gold rush was a revolutionary event and reshaped Victoria, its society and politics.
Australian gold rushes
Ballarat's tent city in the summer of 1853 - 1854 oil painting from an original sketch by Eugene von Guerard
Various gold rushes occurred in Australia over the second half of the 19th century. The most significant of these, although not the only ones, were the Victorian gold rush in 1851, and the Western Australian gold rush of the 1890s. Both were highly significant to their respective states' political and economic development as they brought a large number of immigrants to the states, and promoted massive government spending on infrastructure to support the new arrivals that came looking for gold. While some found their fortune, those who did not often remained in the colonies and took advantage of extremely liberal land laws to take up farming.
Gold rushes happened at or around:
Notable gold finds