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Victoria - Event

The Gold Rushes in Victoria (1851 - c. 1869)

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    Ballarat East, Vic., 1893, courtesy of State Library of Victoria.
    Details

From
1851
To
c. 1869
Categories
Event

Children - 'neglected' children, abandoned children, criminal children - were the subject of much community concern during the gold rush era. Families were also impacted on greatly by the frenzied rush for gold, with many abandoned by a gold-seeking husband and father. The deserted wives were also known as 'grass widows'. Initially, the colony took a haphazard approach to dealing with children (including sending children to jails and benevolent asylums run by organisations like the Immigrants' Aid Society). In 1864, the Victorian government introduced its first piece of legislation specifically relating to 'neglected' children and juvenile offenders, the Neglected and Criminal Children's Act. The gold rushes were a critical factor in the establishment of many of the major institutions in Victoria, including the orphanages at Ballarat and Geelong, and the Melbourne Orphan Asylum.

Details

The discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851 resulted in dramatic and rapid social, economic and cultural change in the colony. During the years of the gold rushes (from 1851 until the late 1860s), government was greatly concerned with how to maintain law and order amidst the chaos and upheaval. As an historical event, the gold rushes were a significant factor shaping the approach to child welfare in Victoria.

Children - 'neglected' children, abandoned children, criminal children - were the subject of much community concern during the gold rush eras.

Families were also impacted on greatly by the frenzied rush for gold. The term 'grass widows' was used during the gold rush years to describe a woman abandoned by a gold-seeking husband. They were also known as deserted wives.

The gold rushes were a critical factor in the establishment of many of the major institutions in Victoria, including the orphanages at Ballarat and Geelong, and the Melbourne Orphan Asylum.

Initially, the colony took a haphazard approach to dealing with children (including sending children to jails and benevolent asylums run by organisations like the Immigrants' Aid Society).

In 1864, the Victorian government introduced its first piece of legislation specifically relating to 'neglected' children and juvenile offenders, the Neglected and Criminal Children's Act.

Publications

Books

  • Jaggs, Donella, Neglected and criminal: foundations of child welfare legislation in Victoria, Centre for Youth and Community Studies, Phillip Institute of Technology, Melbourne, 1986. Details
  • Twomey, Christina, Deserted and destitute: motherhood, wife desertion and colonial welfare, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2002. Details

Photos

Title
Ballarat East, Vic.
Type
Image
Date
1893
Control
Accession No: IAN01/08/93/17, Image No: mp006331
Source
State Library of Victoria

Details

Prepared by: Cate O'Neill