SBS > Gold > Law and Democracy

The diggers cries for police on the gold fields quickly became cries for justice. The largely corrupt police force that arrived to keep law and order was a contributing factor in the Eureka Stockade uprising. Although the diggers` rebellion was quelled, their actions strengthened the young democracy of Victoria.

Law and government in the 1850s
Australia’s fledgling political system underwent enormous change in the years between 1850 and 1901.

Shortage of Police
In the early days of the gold rushes, the Victorian diggings were largely ungoverned. Political manoeuvring in the Legislative Council ensured it stayed this way for months.

Crime on the gold fields
While some saw the gold fields as surprisingly law-abiding, there was no shortage of misdeeds. Murder, theft and drunkenness were common - but claim jumping was viewed as the most serious crime.

Gold escorts
Armed gold escorts protected the diggers’ gold on its journey from the remote gold fields to banks, mints and assay offices in the cities.

Diggers' justice
In the absence of police, diggers meted out their own form of law and order.

Bushrangers on the roam
Bushrangers spelt trouble for gold miners, and the violence of their methods belies the romanticism which later overlaid their actions.

The arrival of police
It was a case of be careful what you wish for. The diggers lamented their ardent calls for police on the goldfields.

The Eureka Stockade
A growing list of digger's grievances and a tragic chain of events culminated in the violent rebellion of the Eureka Stockade.

The impact of the Eureka Stockade
The Eureka Stockade led to increased representation for the miners, and set Australia on the path to democracy.

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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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