Australian Gold Rush

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‘During the 1850’s Australia had become so prosperous that its population demanded commodities and luxuries that her own industries could not yet provide.’ The gold rushes had caused an influx in migrations on a scale previously unheard of in world history; ‘Gold fever’ had taken its grip on the colonies of Victoria and New South Wales. Although there are continuous arguments among historians that the consequences of the gold rushes have been exaggerated, especially when studying the political effects of the Eureka Rebellion, it is still clear that through the intensity of mining a significant change occurred economically, urbanely and industrially, that has benefited Australia to this day.

The primary consequence and gain of the gold rushes was the growth of population due to migration. In 1850 the population of Australia was 405,356 and more than doubled to 1,168,000 by 1861. Even more amazing was the population of Victoria, which in 1851 was a small pastoral frontier of 77,345 but trebled to 540,322 by 1861, according to the Australian census of that time. From late 1852 the gold fields became a montage of nationalities, and thus there was ‘a marked tendency to segregate in national groups.’ Yet the characteristics of the 1850’s population boom, which deserve most reflection, are the age, sex, literacy and occupational training, of the migrants, of which all were significant economically.

According to the 1861 census a majority of the migrants were male and in their twenty’s when they first arrived. Their youth contributed to their vitality and flexibility in adapting to new activities; as a result, during the 1860’s most of the male population was in the workforce. Thus a distinct ‘bulge’ of young energetic males had arisen in Victoria’s age structure. This ‘kink’ in the age structure had long-term consequences and most definitely benefits for Australia.

Due to the influx of young men and later women, who would have been reuniting with...
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