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Bits of Australia’s Gold history

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From the Archives : Originally published February 14th, 2010
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Although gold had been rumoured to have been found in Australia as early as 1814, the first gold fields did not appear until thirty years later. Gold discoveries were not considered blessings in the pre 1850’s Australian convict society as the authorities believed gold fever could potentially cause anarchy in the small fledgling British colonies.


How things have changed since those days.  The gold rushes in the second half of the 19th century would completely change the face of Australia. Before 1851, Australia’s combined white population was approximately 77,000. Most of those had been convicts sent by ship over the previous seventy years.

The gold rush completely changed that however. In the two years that followed Edward Hargraves’ discovery at Bathurst, Australia’s population increased to over 540,000. 370,000 immigrants arrived in Australia’s ports during the year 1852 alone.  That is right, gold is the very reason Australia grew as a nation.


The flow of convicts to Australia’s shores stopped. It suddenly seemed like a foolish idea (and indeed no longer a punishment) to give a free boat ride to Australia’s rich gold fields to anyone who had committed a crime in the UK.


The incredible wealth that poured out of Victoria was unthinkable. When the ships returned to England carrying eight tonnes of Australia gold, the London Times declared in 1852: “…this is California all over again, but, it would appear, California on a larger scale…” 


Incredibly, Victoria alone produced more than a third of the world’s gold produced in the 1850's. By 1871 the population of Australia had increased from 540,000 to a whopping 1.7 million.


Victoria was not the only State in Australia to see massive gold interest.  Gold was initially reported to have been discovered in Western Australia at Fly Flat near Coolgardie in 1892 by Arthur Bailey and William Ford.  Bailey reported that he had mined 554 oz of gold on that day and received a “reward claim” of 20 acres of mining lease. 


The Kalgoorlie gold rush began in June 1893 with the discovery of rich alluvial gold deposits near Mount Charlotte. This distracted prospectors away from Coolgardie in a similar fashion to other discoveries in the Eastern States a few decades earlier. 


From an historical perspective, the Coolgardie gold find proved to be one of immense national significance. During the 1890’s, Eastern Australia experienced a severe depression and people flocked to the areas of Coolgardie in the hope of a better life.

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Neil Charnock

Editor, Goldoz.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

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