Notwithstanding the various interpretations of the impact of gold, it is clear that economic growth and social development went hand in hand during the gold rush era. A closer examination of Mount Alexander Diggings provides a good example of how the phenomenal scale of the gold discoveries attracted both people and capital to Australia. The rush to Forest Creek, on the Mount Alexander diggings – where rich shallow-alluvial gold was found – was the first of the Australian rushes that really sparked the European and Chinese popular imagination.
The immense wealth wrought from these diggings also convinced others, initially wary of the viability of the Victorian gold rushes, to try their hand at gold seeking. By the mid-1850s, the allure of gold and the attraction of a rich alluvial field like Mount Alexander would have been heightened by the many panoramas exhibited in Britain depicting Australia and the gold rushes. After the initial wave of British arrivals, other international gold seekers soon followed in great numbers drawn by the twin prospects of material gain and greater individual autonomy. Many were sojourners whose imaginations had been captured by the ‘promise that all men might one day acquire the wealth with which to become owners of property’. Of these, a significant proportion originated from southern China