Life in the goldfields

By Dean

Gold mining in Australia in the 1850s

When gold was found in Australia people from all over the world came to strike it rich. I will tell you about it.

With the discovery of gold in 1851, people began coming to Australia by choice. They came from many countries, including England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, America, China and Germany.

Everyone wanted the opportunity to become rich and live a better life than the one they had in their own country.

The different types of mining

Mining techniques can be divided into two common excavation types: surface mining and underground mining.

Today, surface mining is much more common. Surface mining involves stripping surface vegetation, dirt, bedrock and other layers of the earth to reach ore deposits underneath.

In underground mining, miners drill tunnels underneath the ore deposits and then draw the material down. Managanes, Tantalum, Copper, Tin, Nickel, Gold, Silver and Diamonds are some examples of what are mined

The different mining tools available in the 1800s

Some mining tools are called gold pans, pickaxes, Californian cradle and a shovel.


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


A cradle was a large wooden tool that was used to wash through a large amount of soil, gravel and sand.


Puddling was used to separate gold from clay. The and gold mixture would be placed in a large container and then water would be poured in. using a wooden stake, the miner would stir the mixture and the clay would dissolve leaving the gold flakes and sand on the bottom of the container.


Pickaxes were 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 mine shaft and then put through the cradle. The pick was also used to help dig shafts when the ground became too hard to dig with the shovel.

Shovels were used to put the soil into the cradle as well as used to dig shafts.

Chinese on the goldfields

The number of Chinese people that came to Australia in the 1800s Gold Rush, is not truly known. It is estimated that about 7000 Chinese worked in the gold fields in southern NSW. Australia first became multi-cultural during the gold rush period with a lot of international immigration to Australia.


The Chinese miners used different mining methods to the Europeans. Even though Europeans found no gold the Chinese found huge amounts. On the occasions Chinese did dig for gold, it is believed that they constructed round shafts rather than square or rectangular ones. This is both sound engineering, as a cylindrical shaft has better structural integrity than a square one.

The Chinese also had a superstition that evil spirits hide in corners and did not want to turn their backs on such spirits.

Women on the goldfields

For women living in the gold fields life was very harsh. For many it was hard to suffer the loneliness. If they went to the diggings with there husbands they were forced to spend many hours alone while their Husband was looking for gold.


A typical day for a women in Australia on the goldfields in the 1850s would be at rise at or before dawn and re light the fire using bellows.dough that had been set to rise the night before would be kneaded agian then baked in the oven. Water would be set to boil and tea would be made.


For break fast women made oats and porridge. The cow had to be milked and the separated and butter churned.

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Life on the gold fields

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 and ships in the harbors lay empty as the crew and passengers were on their way to the gold fields.