SBS > Gold > Life on the Diggings

Ex convicts, Polish soldiers, Dutch sailors, English doctors, and Chinese labourers were among the many who flocked to the gold fields in pursuit of riches. Yet many found the myth of the gold rush more appealing than the reality. Sometimes hot and dusty, other times cold and damp, the diggings offered a life of hard labour, flies, mud, sly grog, dysentery, and occasionally, gold.

The myth and the reality
The reality of the diggings rarely lived up to the wild tales told in Europe and Melbourne.

Life under canvas
Edward Snell captured the spirit of the diggings with his sketches and memoirs.

The egalitarian gold fields
For the first time in their lives the British upper class were at a disadvantage.

Health and medicine
Dr Eadie’s sarsaparilla pills, a cure for all goldfield ailments.

No place for a lady
Sly grog seller, prostitute, storeowner and diggeress were some of the occupations available to women willing to brave the goldfields.

Caroline Chisholm: friend or foe?
Polish digger Seweryn Korzelinski casts doubt on the saintliness of Chisholm’s work.

Sly grog
Alcohol was officially banned from the gold fields, but was always easy to find.

Gold field gold deals
Buying and selling gold could be a risky business.

Daily life
Religion, sly grog and buying supplies were part of everyday life of a digger.

The digger's dictionary
Do you know what aurophobia is? And should you be offended if someone describes you as a duffer?

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Australian soldiers were called diggers, as many men who fought for Australia in WWI were diggers from the goldfields.

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