Tens of thousands of people came to the goldfields in search of gold, but for many of them, the reality of life on the goldfields was very different from what they had imagined.
Crowding, squalid living conditions and lack of success contributed to feelings of unrest in the community. This quickly put a strain on the government forces charged with keeping order in canvas towns and diggings across Victoria.
The government imposed a 30 shilling licence fee (equal to a week’s wages) on miners to meet the growing costs of maintaining order. Aggressive licence hunts were conducted to ensure fees were paid. To protest against the violent enforcement of fees and their treatment by the authorities, many miners chose to burn their licences in public.
Gold fever was highly contagious and the hope of finding the precious yellow metal brought the promise of a better life. Doctors, printers, bakers, builders, ex-convicts, artists and people of all kinds from distant shores could not resist the attraction of striking gold.
In the early days, virtually anyone one could try their luck at finding the ‘easy gold’ lying close to the Earth’s surface. However, as more and more people came to the goldfields, the easy gold started to become harder to find and the mood on the goldfields began to change.
The gold licence fee was proving a huge sum of money for a struggling miner and often impossible to pay. What authorities saw as a necessity to maintain law and order contributed to the growing unrest amongst gold-seekers. Over time, the cost of the gold licences increased and licence hunts became more and more aggressive.
Gold-seekers saw the licence fee as a threat to their dreams of a better life and without the right to vote, they had few options to protest.
At Sovereign Hill
BLOOD ON THE SOUTHERN CROSS
Under the night time sky, Sovereign Hill’s explosive, multi-million-dollar sound-and-light show brings to life the story of the Eureka Rebellion.
Learn what happened when tensions over gold licences boiled over in a bloody battle between gold miners and government forces, in an event that many have celebrated as the birth of democracy in Australia.
Tickets to ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ are available with day entry to Sovereign Hill and a two-course, pre-show dinner. You can also choose to stay overnight at the Sovereign Hill Hotel.
At Sovereign Hill
Discover the beauty and power of gold as you navigate a stunning and valuable collection of gold nuggets, alluvial deposits, priceless artefacts and gold coins. Compare your finds from the creek with the range of gold on show or explore the permanent exhibitions, such as ‘Ballarat: Inspired by Gold’.
Sovereign Hill’s Gold Museum is an impressive building featuring commanding views of Ballarat and an award-winning gift shop, selling gold nuggets and Australian-made gold jewellery and giftware.
Located just across the road from Sovereign Hill on Bradshaw Street, admission is free with your Sovereign Hill entry ticket.