Area of Study One: The Port Phillip District

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Area of Study One: The Port Phillip District. The  impact  of the  gold rushes  and the way gold  changed people’s visions of the future  of the colony. Early Years. 1851: The Port Phillip District separated from the colony of NSW to become the colony of Victoria, named after Queen Victoria.
Area of Study One: The Port Phillip DistrictThe impact of the gold rushes and the way gold changed people’s visions of the future of the colony.Early Years1851: The Port Phillip District separated from the colony of NSW to become the colony of Victoria, named after Queen Victoria. Melbourne at the time was described as an “inferior English town’, muddy roads where drays (carts) could be completely lost. 1841: A world-wide economic depression slowed the progress of Melbourne’s development significantly. 1844: Economic recovery led to the building of government offices, Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Hospital (1846)Early YearsMechanics Institute – members read papers, books, listened to lectures. Governor Charles La Trobe was pivotal in its establishment and development. Despite being aimed at improving the education and cultural appreciation of working-class men it was mostly made of the middle-class. With the discovery of large quantities of gold Victoria was flooded with diggers, accompanying families as well as others looking to profit from the consequences of gold and population influxes.(storekeepers, bakers, butchers, cobblers, barbers, restaurant and lodging keepers, laundresses, sly-grog sellers and other trades). Crisis Years1852-1854 considered the ‘crisis years’ in VictoriaShortage of accommodations/high rentsCanvas town/tent city emerged on the present-day Arts Centre. Others simply camped at the wharves. Two-three ships arrived daily/up to 300 ships docked in the port at any one time. Consumer goods significantly over-pricedRise in portable houses/1,000 new buildings built in 1853Melbourne – a new ‘frontier’1852-53: Melbourne was plagued by drunkenness, crowded pubs and milling crowds. Mobs of riotous diggers returning flush with gold from the diggings and intent on (often fleeting) flaunting their new wealth. Serle describes Melbourne as ‘a cross between a military staging-camp and a wild-west frontier town’. Shop windows displayed gold nuggets while one had skulls punctured by a bullet hole and another a body of a bushranger. Melbourne – the new frontierThe streets were ‘hectic’ with new arrivals crowding the streets, pubs and theatres overflowing with diggers on ‘wild sprees’. Two ex-convicts spent a £4,150 nugget in ‘ten riotous weeks’. Lavish digger weddings with guests ‘hanging boisterously out of cabs” were commonDiggers on unbroken horses charged madly down Bourke Street Sydney Morning HeraldThe Sydney Morning Herald described Melbourne as such: ‘worse governed’ , ‘worse watered town’ ‘a population more thoroughly disposed…to cheating and robbery’‘immorality stalk abroad so unblushingly ‘‘nowhere in the southern hemisphere does chaos reign so triumphant as in Melbourne’Crisis Years Infrastructure could not cope: transport, water, accommodation and public health. The poor sewage infrastructure: Smellbourne. The more serious consequences of poor sewage, a lack of clean water and low access to health services was the rise in dysentery, typhus and measles became epidemics killing many.1853: 80% of Melbourne’s dead were children under two as they could not survive the harsh conditions. Collingwood, Richmond, Clifton Hill: small wooden houses were built but were firetraps and many died in fires between 1851-1854.Gold1850s Victoria produced one-third of the world’s gold outputVictoria’s population increased seven-fold: 1850/76 162 to 1860/537 847.1857: Gold replaced wool as Australia’s leading export.Huge amounts of capital invested in Victoria and Melbourne: vibrant trade and business enterprises. W.Howitt described Melbourne in 1854 as ‘marvellous’. Ornate buildings adorned with elaborate facades emerged. GoldRoads, steel bridges and railways built. Streets lit by gas. Yan Yean reservoir supplied clean water by 1857.Safe sewerage not built until 1890s – Children continued to die. 1856: 2500 miles of telegraph built across Victoria. Environmental ConsequencesAccording to Bolton the gold rush was ‘almost entirely destructive’ in relation to the environment. The building of houses, transportation and tools led to mass tree-cutting. Mining waste destroyed local environment. Excessive transportation of people led to land becoming characterised by mud and dust. Rivers were excessively mined to the rock bed. Vegetation and greenery greatly declined.Pollution, erosion and siltation increased significantly. DiggersApart from experienced diggers from California many migrants had naïve notions about gold mining.Diggers luck, strength and resilience counted more than class and birthright.Governor La Trobe: ‘ Not one in ten is prepared [for] the crush and labour of the goldfields’Geelong Advertiser: Diggers must be ‘a Jack-o-all-trades…strip bark…dig sods, make embankments, put up a hut, mend your clothes…boil and roast…cut paths, make roadways…’ Ellen Clacy: ‘success at diggings is like drawing lottery tickets’DiggersDiggers’ life: six days a week, harsh environmental conditions (extreme dry heat/muddy wet cold winter days). Lived in tents, expensive foodAccess to fuel and clean water difficultDisease and injury commonMany still saw it as a positive and adventurous experience. Young men travelling alone or in groups. Treasured the freedom from family, work, church and societal expectations. Diggers1853: Goldfield population – 46,550 males compared to 10,740 femalesMany women did work and live on the goldfields in a variety of capacities. Family abandonment was common; orphanages overflowing. 1860: 212 children housed in jailsCommon for children to be begging and stealing Missionary reports: Mothers struggled to control children with absent husbands. God’s Police1851:Caroline Chisholm’s Family Colonisation Society: assisted migration scheme to encourage single women to marry diggers. Women as potential wives were seen as a “civilising influence” upon men. Chisholm called them ‘God’s Police’ as they would purge men of their immoral vices: drinking, gambling, debaucherous behaviour.
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