The lure of instant wealth drew people from all over the world to the Victorian goldfields, but life was hard and only a few struck it rich. Click on the images below for photos, videos and more information. Suitable for years 3 to 6.
Discovery of gold
Gold was first found in Ophir, near Bathurst, New South Wales, in 1851, and shortly afterwards in Victoria.
Over the following decades, gold was also discovered elsewhere in Australia.
Whenever gold was found, people rushed to the diggings from nearby cities as well as overseas. New towns sprang up, and Australia’s population skyrocketed.
Gold in Victoria
Mining and migration
The earliest gold in Victoria was found on the surface. Miners used simple picks and pans to separate gold from rock, soil and water.
People rushed to the goldfields from places including the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe and China. Sometimes there was conflict.
The miners needed goods and services and businesses such as butchers and blacksmiths flourished. When the surface gold ran out, miners dug deep into the ground.
Did you know?
Did you know the largest nugget in the world, 'Welcome Stranger', was found in Victoria in 1869 and weighed 75 kilograms?
In 2015, a Victorian man found a gold nugget weighing 2.7 kilograms near Bendigo!
Unrest on the goldfields
With so many people rushing to the goldfields, the authorities found it hard to keep control. In Victoria in 1851, the government introduced a gold licence, which was unpopular with miners. They organised protests and petitions.
In 1854, near Ballarat, about 500 miners built and occupied a fortress that became known as the Eureka Stockade. The government sent in soldiers to attack the stockade. The soldiers won the battle, killing 22 miners. Despite its victory, the Victorian government abandoned the gold licence and replaced it with the much fairer miner’s right.
Watch the videos
Dr Clare Wright discusses the role of women on the Victorian goldfields.
'Eureka Stockade' on ABC TV's Behind the News website
Including footage from Sovereign Hill. Duration: 3:58.
'The famous Bakery Hill speech' from Eureka Stockade on the ABC Education website
Audio recital of Eureka leader Peter Lalor's speech. Duration: 15:56.