Vault #4: Goldrush Melbourne

S T Gill Queens, Wharf Melbourne, West End, c.1858 Photographic negatives, VPRS 12903/P1, Box 522/04.
S T Gill Queens, Wharf Melbourne, West End, c.1858 Photographic negatives, VPRS 12903/P1, Box 522/04.

The Victorian gold rushes prompted one of the largest voluntary mass-migrations in history. People from England, Europe, China and America - mostly men - swamped Victoria's ports. In December 1851, Victoria's population was 97,489. By Christmas of the following year it had increased to 168,321 people.

With a shortage of housing in Melbourne, many new arrivals were forced to camp in a tent city. Increased traffic began to wear away at the colony's roads. Basic services like water supply, rubbish and sewerage disposal were pushed to the limit, resulting in a very real threat to the population's health. However, business opportunities abounded for the thrifty and imaginative. Many people became richer from servicing the needs of gold rush Melbourne, than by digging for the precious metal itself.