Life on the Goldfields

By Roger Saba

The different types of mining

Panning – was a simple technique used to find alluvial gold, which was small nuggets or flecks of gold that were found in creek beds and under the surface of shallow underground streams.

Cradle – was a large wooden tool used to wash through a large amount of soil, gravel and/or sand.

Puddling – was used to separate gold from clay.

Shaft mining – when gold started to become scarce just under the surface of the ground, miners turned to digging deep holes, or shafts, in the ground.

The tools used in gold mining

Miner’s Pick – was used to break apart solid pieces of rock and soil so it could be placed either directly in the cradle or in the case of shaft mining, in a bucket to be brought up from the shaft mine and then put through the cradle.

Shovel – was used to put the soil into the cradle as well as used to dig shafts.

Pan – was used to swirl out muddy water leaving gold nuggets and specks of gold at the bottom of the pan.

The Chinese on the goldfields

The Chinese were mainly working hard , with techniques that varied widely from the Europeans. This and their sensible arrival and fear of the unknown led to them to being offended in a racist way that would be regarded as weak today. The Chinese used to also work in groups to find gold.

Women on the goldfields

A typical day for a woman in an Australian pioneer village in the 1850s gold rush days, would be to rise at or before dawn and re-stoke the fire.Depending on the day, the routine would then be to do the weekly wash, the ironing, grinding of grain, working in the veggie patch and so on till dark. In between preparing the stew, the women would do mending, knitting, sewing.

Life on the Goldfields


When the gold rush began, many people left their jobs to find a fortune on the gold fields. As a result, shops closed down for there was no one in the towns to work in them, nor any people to buy the products sold, schools had to close down because there were no one to teach the children.When miners first came to the gold fields they lived in calico tents. The miner’s would sleep on makeshift mattresses which were stuffed with leaves. Outside their tent they would have a cooking fire, a bucket of water. The meat was sold by a butcher, who would have a tent set up in the camp it was easy to find the butcher’s tent as it was always surrounded by flies which were swarming the mutton carcasses hanging outside.There were barely any qualified doctors, surgeons, pharmacists or dentists on the gold fields so treatment for the sick or injured was unreliable.In the first few years, women and children were scarcely seen on the gold fields as conditions were harsh and it was not considered a place for a lady or children.

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