Gold, the most noble of noble metals, is found throughout Australasia and the present prosperity of the colonies is largely due to discoveries of this metal, the development of other industries being, in a country of varied resources, a natural sequence of the acquisition of mineral treasure.
Settlement in Australia was still young when many-tongued rumour spoke of the existence of gold, but it was not until the 16th February, 1823, that the Government was officially apprised of a discovery destined to be the precursor of a prosperity seldom surpassed in the history of nations.
On the date mentioned Mr. Assistant-Surveyor McBrien reported that a spot on the Fish River, about 15 miles east of Bathurst (New South Wales), he had discovered gold.
Mention is made in the early records of New South Wales of several other finds, but it remained for Count Strzecki and the Rev. W. B. Clark to demonstrate the existence of the precious metal in payable quantities, and to assert their belief in its abundance, an opinion strongly supported in England by several eminent authorities, and substantiated by Hargraves' discovery in the year 1851.
The gold fields of Lewis Ponds and Summer Creek had hardly been opened when on the day that witnessed the severance of the Port Phillip district from the mother colony of New South Wales, Mr. Esmond discovered gold in Victoria.
Shortly afterwards a rush set in for Ballarat and the gold fever took hold of Australia.
In Western Australia gold was first found in 1868, although it was not until 1887 that any diggings of importance were discovered.
These were situated at Yilgarn, about 200 miles east of Perth, and at Southern Cross, a little further south.
In 1892 a sensational discovery of gold was made at Coolgardie, 115 miles east of Southern Cross, and in 1893 another gold field was found in Dundas Hills, 130 miles south of Coolgardie , on the track to Esperance Bay.
During the past three years these fields have attracted a large number of miners from the eastern colonies, and the rush to Coolgardie at one time almost resembled the rushes of the early gold-digging days.
The following table gives the values of gold raised from the commencement of mining in the various colonies to the close of the year 1894 with the proportion due to each province.
It will be readily understood from the forgoing figures how Victoria, although in area the second smallest of the group, achieved the foremost position amongst the colonies, and retained that place so long as the powerful attraction of gold continued.
But although the discovery of such extraordinary deposits as those of Mount Morgan, in Queensland, may astonish the world and give princely to shareholders, the thirst for gold cannot now entice any considerable proportion of the population from other pursuits.