John Deason has got be one of the luckiest people in Australia’s history.
In February 1869, the Cornish miner was working at Bulldog Gully in central Victoria when, just three centimetres below the surface, he discovered a gold nugget. And what a gold nugget it was.
Deason’s find was a 66 kilogram piece of gold that became the world’s largest known nugget.
After waiting until darkness fell Deason and his partner Richard Oates dug out the find, which was taken to Dunolly.
Miners pose with the finders of the “Welcome Stranger” [Image: Creative Commons]
In order to fit it on the bank’s scales, the nugget had to be broken on an anvil.
Soon after, the nugget was soon melted down into ingots and shipped to the Bank of England.
It was estimated to be worth £10,000 pounds – around $3-4 million dollars in today’s Australian currency.
The Beginning Of A Gold Rush
On February 12, 1851, a prospector discovered flecks of gold in a waterhole near Bathurst, New South Wales. Soon, even more gold was discovered in what would become Victoria. This began the Australian Gold Rush, which had a profound impact on our country’s national identity.
Within a year, more than 500,000 “diggers” rushed to the gold fields of Australia. Most of these immigrants were British, but many prospectors from the United States, Germany, Poland, and China also settled in NSW and Victoria.
More immigrants arrived from other parts of Australia. Wages in the region doubled, but it was still difficult to find workers as people abandoned their stable jobs to seek their fortune in the gold fields.
These “diggers” forged a strong, unified identity independent of British colonial authority. This concept of mateship became central to the way Australian history has been told.