The discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851 changed the lives of thousands of people. The lives of the Indigenous peoples of central Victoria were drastically changed when gold rapidly sped up the process of European colonisation of their lands. The squatters who had been working on runs in central Victoria found that their livelihoods were affected by gold when most of their workers took off to try their luck on the diggings. And gold made thousands of people decide to head for central Victoria.
Through the stories of these people who lived on the goldfields – the diggers, their wives, the politicians, the philanthropists, the agitators, the entertainers we learn about the history of gold. Some of these people are well-known 'historical' figures. Some of them are 'ordinary' people, who would have remained obscure to historians were it not for the fact that - by chance or by design - traces of their life on the goldfields survive today for us to interpret. A man like James Scobie would have been just another digger from Scotland, but as it happened, after his murder at the Eureka Hotel, Scobie became a key player in the drama of the Eureka Stockade. Ellen Clacy came to Victoria from England in 1852, with her brother her diary ended up being published in 1853 and now her writings are an important source for those of us who are interested in finding out about how 'ordinary' people experienced life on the diggings.