The gold rush started when gold had been declared found in the town of Ballarat, Victoria in late August 1851. Miners from across the world rushed to Australia in hope to find some gold. There was not one distinct issue that lead to the Eureka stockade on the Ballarat goldfields. In Victoria, hostility between the miners and government arose because of the dreadful living and working environments. These complications began to grow because of the deficient gold licensing system. Specific occurrences in Ballarat created the hostility to break out into the chaos and violence between miners and authorities.
This event is known as the Eureka stockade. A difficult journey to the goldfields and awful conditions left miners feeling miserable and discontent. Many miners were robbed of their possessions by savage bushrangers while making their way to the goldfields by walking, horse and cart and strange velocipedes. It was so crowded at the goldfields that on the 2nd of June 1851, the Sydney Morning Herald described that it would cause ‘… a stranger to believe that the people were actually fleeing from a city infested with the plague.
At the goldfields miners had to put up with changing weather, shortages of food and water supplies, difficulty mining and living in old ragged tents. There was a whole lot of theft, drunken brawling and murder so miners often carried around weapons in self-defence. There were many worries about claim-jumpers, which resulted in miners working 6 days a week (Sunday being their rest day). Due to unsanitary conditions both death and disease such as Typhoid fever, dysentery and scurvy were all common. The appalling situations the miners faced were not sorted out so conflict between miners and the government kept increasing.
The gold licensing system was just another problem for the miners. They had to pay 30 shillings each month in advance just to renew them, whether they found gold or not. This only gave them the right to mine in a small area. Miners had to carry their licences around with them at all times, even if they left them in their tents due to dirty conditions down in the mines, that was no excuse, they were still arrested. Many miners refused to buy gold licences so troopers were sent to catch them. As a result of this, in September 1854, Governor Hotham made licence checks twice a week. The diggers were infuriated!
Harsh consequences for not having a gold licence meant that that miner’s equipment and huts were destroyed, as well as being fined or arrested. Nothing was done about the licensing system, so this provoked the miner’s rage even more. There were so many causes that eventually led to the chaos of the Eureka rebellion. However, there was one particular event that really fuelled the anger of the miners, and that was the death of a Ballarat digger, James Scobie on the 6th of October 1854. He was murdered at Eureka Hotel, owned by James Bentley who was an ex-convict and was most likely suspected for murder.
Police then dropped charges against Bentley due to previous favours Bentley had done for police. The reaction of the miners caused them to be so outraged that on the 17th of October they burnt the hotel to the ground. 29th of November 1854, the diggers decided to burn their licenses because they were so sick of the lack of action taken by the government. The next day, the digger’s tempers were ready to explode when the government ordered another licence hunt when he knew many of the miners had burned them the day before.
The miners were so inflamed with anger that a gathering for the Ballarat Reform League was organized where the miners picked a leader, Peter Lalor, to lead them in the battle of freedom for miners. In the end, there was not one distinct factor that led to the Eureka stockade. It all started at the goldfields, where the conditions were horrible, and the licensing system was pathetic and the government refused to do anything about it. The violence just kept increasing from there, and then the death of Scobie really fired the miners up.
The Eureka rebellion is now an important part of Australian history today. Bibliography – * Rebellion: The Eureka Stockade (2012), 1st June, www. kidcyber. com. au/topics/goldeureka. htm * Life of the Australian goldfields (2011), 1st June, www. kidcyber. com. au/topics/goldeureka. htm * The Eureka Rebellion, year (n/a), 3rd June, home. alphalink. com. au/~eureka/eukand. htm * Bedson, C. Darlington, R. Kwiatkowski, A. Wiggs, A, 2010, Humanities Alive 3, Second Edition, John Wiley & Sons, QLD.
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