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The Australian Gold rush
By Judy Tanner
1 In the eighteen forties and fifties, gold fever swept the world. In 1851, Edward Hargraves, an Australian miner who had just returned from the gold fields in California, discovered gold in a waterhole near Bathurst, in New South Wales. Edward Hargraves named the site where he found gold Ophir. When he told the authorities of his discovery, he was given a reward of ten thousand pounds and made "Commissioner of Lands." Very soon the tiny area of Ophir had a population boom as one thousand "diggers" arrived to try their hand at making a fortune from the soil.
2 In Victoria, the government offered a reward of two hundred pounds for anyone who discovered gold. In 1852, gold was discovered at Ballarat and later at Bendigo. Shortly afterwards, miners from around the world arrived to try their luck in the new gold fields, and within a few years, around 370,000 immigrants had arrived from countries across the globe to prospect for gold in Victoria. Melbourne changed from a small township to a booming capital city within a very short time. Mansions and stately homes were built by those who had struck it rich, the railways were built, and the economy soared.
3 However, life on the gold fields was harsh, and very few people became rich, no matter how hard they worked. Between 1851 and 1854, tensions between the police and government officials who administered the gold licences and the miners who had to buy them, even if they found no gold, erupted. In December 1854, angry miners gathered at Eureka, on the outskirts of Ballarat, and flew a blue flag across which was painted a white cross and stars representing the "Southern Cross." They fought with the soldiers and police officers, and some died in the battle. But thanks to the rebellion at Eureka Stockade, the unfair gold licensing system was abolished, and Peter Lalor, the leader of the rebellious miners, even became a member of parliament.
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