Minor discoveries of gold were made in Australia in the early days, but it was the Californian goldrush of 1849 which sharpened interest.
The local paper, the Bathurst Free Press, prophesied ‘a complete social revolution’ in Australia, and was not so far wrong. Arriving at Melbourne or Geelong, the prospectors walked to the fields, each loaded down like a human mule with a tent, blankets, tools, cooking pots and a supply of flour, tea and sugar. Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. A tough brash mountain of a man named Edward Hammond Hargraves returned from California to try the prospecting skills he had acquired there. By May, half of Sydney seemed to have left for the goldfields and there was a sensation in July when the Kerr Nugget was found, a whole hundredweight of gold.
The first arrivals were mainly young men in search of a quick fortune, and the diggings were wild and lawless, but the prospectors were followed by business and professional men, traders and skilled craftsmen, who changed the nature of immigration to Australia.


On February 12th, 1851, he and a young fellow named Lister were working along Lewis Pond Creek near Bathurst in New South Wales, where his instincts told him he was surrounded by gold. In August fabulously rich fields were found in Victoria, in the Buninyong Ranges near Ballarat. The fields were honeycombed with diggings, each with a mound of spoil, and dotted with the diggers’ tents or lean-to huts of poles and bark. By the end of the year ships were on the way bringing hopefuls from Britain, many Cornish, Scots and Irish among them. Along a rough main track would be shops, grog shanties selling spirits, and amusement halls, built of canvas or calico on a wooden frame. Yet courage, resourcefulness, friendliness, helpfulness and good humour were qualities admired in the goldfields, while Old World social distinctions meant nothing. Prospectors came from the United States and China as well, with a few from Germany and elsewhere.


In London, even the young artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood considered joining the rush to Australia, though they decided not to.
Hargraves, who took a proprietary interest in the whole phenomenon, christened the place Ophir, after a fabled gold-producing region in the Old Testament.
Dance girls were in short supply and hairy diggers in pea jackets and boots, their pipes in their mouths, would dance solemnly together on a floor thick with mud. Stage shows were popular and Lola Montez’s sensuous ‘spider dance’ was a sensation in the goldfields in 1853. Diggers who struck it rich might whoop it up in the bars and theatres of Melbourne, lighting their pipes with five-pound notes and treating everyone to drinks.



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