Life in the Gold Fields

The Australian Gold Rush

What is Gold

Gold is a soft, yellow precious metal. It is one of the few metals that is yellow in colour. It is melted and poured into moulds. It is malleable, which means it can be hammered or pressed without breaking or cracking. It can be stretched into a thin sheet or into wire. It also conducts electricity. It has been valued for centuries, long before recorded history.

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Woman on the Goldfields

At first there were mostly men on the goldfields, but later on they were joined by their families. There were only a few women who were diggers though, most were shopkeepers. Most women stayed home with their families however, usually with very little money to live on, while their husbands worked on the goldfields. A few years later, many women took their children and joined their husbands when conditions improved, although there were always more men than women at the goldfields.

Women’s work consisted of washing, ironing and cooking. They made bread, butter, jams, soap and clothes for the family.The living conditions were cramped, and there were few comforts at the diggings. Often fresh water was carted in to the diggings and sold by the bucketful and fresh vegetables and fruit was rare and cost a lot. Usually when a woman gave birth to a baby, she was assisted by other women but because of illness many women died while giving birth.

Chinese on the Goldfields

A number of Chinese people came to Australia in the 1800's, but not straight after the gold was discovered. It is believed about 7000 Chinese came to the the gold fields in Southern NSW.

Australia first became multi-cultural during the gold rush period with mass international immigration to Australia. The lure of gold however often took a personal toll on individuals of all persuasions, particularly those who did not speak English.


Separating the gold from the dirt was done in a washing cradle or a sluice box. The cradle had a metal sieve to separate larger rocks. It had wooden strips called riffles at the bottom. As the cradle was rocked, water was poured in to wash away the dirt. Particles of gold were left behind in the riffles. A sluice (say sloose) was a runway made of wood to let water flow downhill. It became steeper, and had riffles in the end to catch the gold left behind after the dirt was washed away.


Although gold pans were much in evidence during the early days of the Gold Rush, miners started to use them less and less as time went on and they created better gold extraction devices. miners would use pans to search the river banks, where some gold would be hidden in the mud.

the eureka stokade

The Eureka rebellion, which is often referred to as the 'Eureka Stockade', is a key event in the development of Australian democracy and Australian identity.

On the 3rd of december 1854, the miner started to get angry at the harsh system of the miners licenses, so they they went to the police/govenment to arrange a new way to pay fees for the miners who were not sucsessful in finding gold that month, when they were not sucsessful with a peacful arrangment, they burnt there licenses in a bonfire as protest and assembled on bakery hill under the leadership of Peter Lalor, the diggers then marched to the Eureka diggings, starting the fight. When the attack finished about 30 people were killed and 28 of the rebel miners were taken prisnor.

Althought the rebellion was crushed the mines did win the astablishments of licenses which was replaced with a miners right and they wee also given the right to vote. by the end the southern cross flag was raised high and now the southern cross is the symbol of protest by organisations and individuals at both ends of the political spectrum.

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mining types

there are two types of mining:

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.

Alluvial mining: usually takes the form of dust, thin flakes or nuggets. Alluvial gold mining is when gold is searched for in the shallow ground or river beads, usually the tools that are used are shovels or pans.