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Global Significance of the Rushes

The story of the Australian gold rushes forms one of the major historical narratives of Australian and global history during the second half of the nineteenth century. Key moments of the gold rushes are central to explaining many aspects of Australian history, present day Australian society, and Australia’s relationship with the global community. These moments include the Eureka Stockade, the emergence of responsible government, the mass international movement of people to the Australian colonies during the 1850 and1860s, radical dissent, and the economic development as a result of gold mining and its associated industries.

Gold seeking and the Australian gold rushes is not only the story the acquisition of wealth and fame but also one of the movement of people to Australia from all over the world. The gold generation, as they later became known, predominantly came from the British Isles, but there were also significant groups who ventured from a diversity of other areas – including the Pearl River delta region of Southern China, Chile, continental Europe, North America, the Pacific Islands, and New Zealand. Most arrived in the hope of gaining greater personal autonomy, winning their fortune, and obtaining their own property. The potential of winning gold offered the chance of a secure future; however most gold prospectors were unsuccessful.

Keir Reeves