Life on Goldfields

Danielle M

What Life was Like

The goldfields had no sewerage so if anyone asked, "where's the goldfields?' the answer would be, "follow your nose," because they didn't own flushable toilets so the smell was terrible. The miners couldn't wash because there was no running water and the miners made what used to be clean rivers into dirty, muddy rivers. Few people on the goldfields had it easy because many expected they were coming to a land where you'll find gold everywhere, which caused them to become frustrated and disappointed when they didn't find gold. Because the miners had to work hard all day and have bad sleeping conditions at night they were easily aggravated and could possibly start brutal riots. The diggers on the goldfields mostly just ate mutton, damper and drank tea. Mutton is actually just sheep meat because they thought that they shouldn't waste the lambs. Damper is a type of bread baked over the fire by the diggers or their wives that consists of only flour and water. Carts went around selling drinkable water that wasn't actually that clean so many diggers boiled it in their billy (an old version of a kettle) and made tea without sugar or milk because it was expensive. The miners didn't eat fresh fruit or vegetables often because they didn't have any gardens. Fresh fruit were sometimes sold when they were in season and sometimes blended into fruit drinks and cordial. The poor diggers had to sleep on the ground out in the open but the wealthier diggers brought tents to live in while others brought sheets or canvas to hang over branches and peg to the ground for a temporary tent.

Diffferent Types of Mining and the Tools

Reef gold is a type of gold found underground and you have dig deep and downwards to find it. Pickaxes were used to mine the gold back during the gold rush by spending everyday tirelessly hammering a pickaxe up and down hoping to find gold which usually wasn't there. Now we use modern machines to quickly tunnel underground and bring up lots of gold, when back in the gold rush they placed the gold into a bucket that was thin at the top and fat at the bottom so that the gold won't fall out called a kibble. The kibble was tied to rope and the rope was tied to something called a windlass which had a handle attached to it that people pushed it around in circles which pulls the kibble up. Alluvial gold is found in rivers or streams and you have to pan or use a cradle to find it. Panning is where you use a circular pan to scoop up rocks, dirt and hopefully gold at the bottom of the lake and you swish it around scraping the top layers off continually until there is just sand, dirt and hopefully gold left and you move it around and if there is gold you should see the specks. A cradle is actually named a Californian cradle because they made it in the Californian gold rush. To use the cradle you shovel up some dirt and put it in the top and rock it side-to-side and because gold is so heavy it will fall through to the bottom.

Sickness and Health

Because the diggers didn't wash, there were no doctors on the goldfields and other reasons there were multiple diseases going around that even if there were doctors they wouldn't have even known the cure. Diggers had to drink dirty water which caused diseases like dysentery and typhoid. From sleeping on the cold wet ground some miners were diagnosed with many different illnesses. Hundred of miners were infected with pneumonia, a lung disease that can kill you and isn't contagious so there was a extremely small amount of people that actually lived through it. Druggists were people who faked being doctors and sold medicine that they said cured cancer and other sicknesses that the doctors that the miners couldn't afford didn't even know how to cure. The druggists made lots of money because nearly everyone believed that the homemade herbal drugs and ointments could actually cure them. Mining accidents were common when diggers where mining for reef gold because there were many ways to be harmed when mining underground because a kibble could fall down a mine shaft or miners could run out of air and other incidents could also happen.

Women and Children on the Goldfields

Men didn't usually take their wives or children to the goldfields for it is a harsh and dangerous environment with many diseases that children were more vulnerable to than adults. Men actually outnumbered women six to one. If a man did bring his wife she would usually be cooking, cleaning or making clothing because very few women were actually miners. Out of about 600,000 men miners that arrived in Victoria there was just about 160,000 women who were wives or daughters and thought Australia would form a better life for them. Land that belonged to the Aboriginal women was mostly trampled on and demolished when the diggers came rushing toward the goldfields. Children were sometimes forced by their parents or other diggers to help them find gold. Children still had to live in the harsh cold conditions but some with more successful parents would have a more normal lifestyle because they could go to school and afford luxuries that others couldn't. Wealthier children were nearly always sent to school but even some poorer families sent their children to school because they knew it was essential for their children to read and write. Victorian schools often only educated children aged seven to twelve. Before the schools opened nearly all children didn't have the ability to read and write.

Chinese on the Goldfields

Many different cultures came when they heard about the gold rushes, but it was just mostly Europeans. The Chinese on the goldfields were the most hardworking people as well as experiencing the most discrimination. Many race riots against the Chinese occurred, for example in 1861 at Lambing Flat, NSW the Europeans were scalping the ponytails of their heads. The Chinese in the goldfields were very smart and planted vegetables and fruit to have a healthier diet and sold some of it for extra money or if their gold finding wasn't as successful as others. The Chinese would sometimes wake up earlier or go to sleep later to have more time to find gold and they sometimes worked in teams and shared the loot that was found and were still sometimes very successful with mining. In Southern-China there is a province named Guangdong where 90% of the Chinese miners came from. At the time of the gold rushes there was a civil war raging which made life unsafe for the inhabitants so they were ready to pack their bags (or whatever they owned, which was usually not very much) and leave to find gold. In Melbourne newpapers they commonly advertised and feared a Chinese 'invasion' because of all the Chinese coming to the goldfields which was the begin of the Europeans dislike for the Chinese.After a few years of Chinese coming for free the Australians decided that everyone who wants to get off the boat and land has to pay 10 euros or they have to go back. Later in the Gold rush other rules also became unfair for the Chinese and life became even harder.