Below you will find a range of resources for learning at home and discovering the rich history of Ballarat’s goldfields.
Then & Now
How far have we come as a society? What has changed since the Victorian era? What can we learn from the people, technologies and practices of the Victorian era?
Explore and compare our lifestyles then and now in a series of blogs created by Sovereign Hill’s Education Team.
- In Praise of Washing Machines - Hate chores? You’ll feel better once you find out how the Victorians cleaned their clothes.
- Life Before Plastic - How did they manage waste in the Victorian era? Hint: It didn’t involve yellow, green and red waste bins!
- 1850s Hair Dos and Don'ts - Looking for new hair styling ideas? Discover Victorian-style hair maintenance.
- Animals on the Goldfields - Discover the crucial role animals played during the gold rush.
- Environmental Changes to Victoria’s Landscape - Find out about the long-lasting impact of the gold rush on the environment.
Hidden Histories: The Wadawurrung People
A digital tour that brings to life the perspectives and participation of Aboriginal people on the Ballarat goldfields from 1851 to 1871.
Click here to start the tour.
The Colonisation of the Victorian Central Goldfields
(Suitable for years 4, 5, 9)
Come on a journey through the colonial history of central Victoria. Meet local Aboriginal Elders and learn about traditional food, culture and life in this region before the Europeans arrived.
Learn about the first colonisers and the discovery of gold. Explore mines and walk the streets of 1850s Ballarat at Sovereign Hill.
Hear stories about the men and women who travelled from all around the world to seek their fortunes and a better life in Australia and learn about the impacts of colonisation on local Aboriginal people.
Produced in partnership with ABC Education.
- Chapter 1: Before Colonisation
What was life like for the Aboriginal people of central Victoria before the Europeans arrived? What did they eat and how was that food grown? What does ‘connection to Country’ mean?
The Wathaurung (also known as Wadawurrung) and Dja Dja Wurrung people of Victoria farmed the land for foods like murnong (also known as the yam daisy), part of their staple diet.
Meet Aunty Julie McHale from local Aboriginal community education organisation, Nalderun. Watch as she and some of her students harvest and prepare murnong in a traditional way.
Aunty Marlene Gilson then digs up some ancient stone tools in her backyard – evidence that her ancestors once walked on the land where she now lives!
- Chapter 2: Early Colonisation (1835-1851)
What was the Victorian environment like when the first Europeans came here? What can maps teach us about the colonisation of Victoria? How was the landscape impacted by colonisation? Why were there disputes between the pastoralists and the local Aboriginal people?
Following Major Mitchell’s expedition, many European pastoralists rushed to Victoria with more than six million sheep, in what some historians have called ‘the fastest land grab in history’. After being managed by Aboriginal people for over 60,000 years, the land was quickly divided-up into pastoral holdings, leading to the destruction of major traditional food sources, theft and conflict.
Note: The reconstructed Aboriginal Languages of Victoria Map is just one version of such a map. Others exist with varying boundaries, which will continue to change as further research is carried out.
- Chapter 3: The Gold Rush (1850s)
The discovery of gold had a significant impact on the colony of Victoria.
What were the three distinct but overlapping eras of gold mining in Ballarat? How did they shape the development of this region? How do staff at Sovereign Hill know what life was like during the three eras of gold mining in Ballarat?
Walk through the streets of 1850s Ballarat at Sovereign Hill. See how gold changed the architecture and the way people lived in Ballarat and check out one of the largest gold nuggets ever found.
- Chapter 4: Eureka! (1854)
What is the difference between a gold license and a Miner's Right? How did the miners get their rights and what were they angry about? What story can Peter Lalor’s chair tell us? What is a moiety? What does Aunty Marlene’s painting tell us about Aboriginal people and the Eureka Rebellion (also known as the Eureka Stockade)?
An angry dispute between miners and the authorities over the gold licensing system led to the Eureka Rebellion. Men died during the fierce battle, miners were taken prisoner and the leader of the rebelling miners, Peter Lalor, was shot.
Find out what changed for the miners afterwards, what impact the Eureka Rebellion had on democracy and how this event impacted local Aboriginal people.
- Chapter 5: Immigration and the Gold Rush (1850s)
Why did Chinese people come out to Australia? What can we learn about their experiences of and contributions to colonial Victoria? What can a painting tell us about people’s experiences travelling from England to the Australian gold rushes?
Visit Sovereign Hill’s Gold Museum and learn how people came from all over the world to seek their fortune and a better life on the Victorian goldfields. Many took great risks leaving their homelands for a long journey to Australia. For some it took over three months travelling by ship. Many of these migrants faced challenges when they arrived, but they stayed and started a new life in Australia, bringing their culture with them.
- Chapter 6: Women of the Goldfields (1850s)
What was life like for women on the goldfields and how do we know? What is so interesting about Eliza Perrin’s dress? What did Jenni learn about life for women on the goldfields when she lived at Sovereign Hill?
The women of the Ballarat goldfields faced many challenges and not everyone prospered. There were far fewer women than men and only a very small number of women worked as miners, searching for gold. Some women ran businesses or worked in shops or as domestic servants. Others worked at home, looking after their families, which was much harder in the 1850s because there was no electricity! Sadly, some women had no family or government support and were forced to live on the streets, relying on the charity of others.
- Chapter 7: After Colonisation
How did colonisation impact the lives of the local Aboriginal people? In what ways can culture live on and strengthen?
Aunty Julie McHale and Aunty Marlene Gilson reflect on colonisation in central Victoria. Listen as they talk about the importance of keeping culture alive and how it can feel for people to practice culture. Aunty Marlene’s son then sings a song in Wathaurung language.