Black and White Ballarat

Pastoral settlement in the Ballarat district preceded the gold rush by at least a decade. From late August 1851 news spread that Ballarat had become a goldfield and this was the catalyst for rapid immigration to the district. Many aspired to find gold and providing for their needs was an opportunity for entrepreneurs to capitalise on the sudden influx of population. The location at some distance from the ports of Geelong and Melbourne allowed this goldfield to develop from a transitory, tented community to a permanent inland settlement in the Central Highlands of the Colony of Victoria. This was known as the Port Phillip District of New South Wales prior to the separation in July 1851 which coincided nicely with the announcement of Victorian gold discoveries.

Gold was first discovered in Ballarat on the rise above Canadian Creek at the base of Poverty Point aka Golden Point in late August (21-24th) 1851. Reports in the Geelong Advertiser instigated the first rush to the Ballarat Diggings. The Gold Commissioner exercised authority over the newly arrived diggers and friction over mining licences and policing rankled many miners, especially those who could not afford the fee.

The Ballarat & District Genealogical Society receives much correspondence about ancestors who may have been in Ballarat at the time of the Eureka uprising on 3rd December 1854. That date is writ large in the history of Ballarat and can be considered a demarcation point to be declared a Ballarat pioneer.


At this time Ballarat Flat and the other diggings along the creeks leading to it were clusters of canvas dwellings on ground which was honeycombed with muddy holes and mounds of wash dirt from alluvial mining. What an exciting cosmopolitan place Ballarat had become within just a few years as mostly young, literate immigrants arrived after a long sea voyage. Accents from all over the world could be heard on the goldfields. Rich finds were made but it is estimated that about one quarter of the population was servicing the needs of the miners.