Dangers of life on the goldfields

Learning intention

Students examine some of the dangers diggers and their families faced on the goldfields through primary source analysis.

Students will:

  • Understand the impact of the gold rush as a significant event on the colony 
  • Identify points of view in the past and present 
  • Locate information related to inquiry questions in a range of sources 


You can find background information for students in the Golden Victoria section of Explore history and the Select resources section of Learn skills.


Primary sources on ergo:

Evaluating sources - student template [Word 8.52KB]

Art materials


Brainstorm possible dangers of life on the goldfields. Ask students to think about the challenges different groups may have faced (eg. women, children, migrants etc.).

Introduce primary sources from ergo. Each source provides contextual information, including transcripts where relevant, and a zoom function so students can investigate detail. Use the evaluating sources template [Word 8.52KB] as a basis for analysis. Use questions below to guide discussion:

  • What types of crime were common on the goldfields?
  • Why was crime such a problem?
  • What other dangers did diggers face?
  • Given how dangerous their lives were, why did people give up everything to travel to the goldfields?
  • What actions were taken to minimise these dangers? Could more have been done?

As an extension, students could brainstorm possible solutions to dangers faced by diggers and design and produce awareness material for use on the goldfields, such as warning posters or brochures.

Ask them to consider the different audiences for these materials; their literacy levels, attitudes to authority etc. when creating their designs.

Students could also continue the diary they began in the Gold Fever activity, outlining difficulties and dangers encountered on the goldfields.

Sketches of women at work in the Colony.
Painting showing illicit alcohol service at the back of a tent.
Lithograph of a dispute between diggers over a land claim.
Drawing of a gold convoy and escort heading form the goldfields to Melbourne.