Investigation 3

What problems and challenges resulted from the Western Australian gold rush?

The discovery of gold in Western Australia came at a time when other colonies were experiencing economic hardship. Many people in the east were struggling to make a living. As a result, thousands of people from Australia’s eastern colonies quickly set out for the ‘golden west’, hoping to make their fortunes on the goldfields of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

Some Western Australians called the newcomers ‘othersiders’. In return, some of the newcomers called Western Australians ‘sandgropers’. This was just one indication that the effects of the gold rush were not all going to be positive for Western Australia. There were great benefits for the colony because of growth in population and wealth—but the gold rush also brought new tensions and social divisions, and a number of other challenges and difficulties as well.

Your Task

Investigate the problems and tensions in Western Australia caused by rapid increases in population due to the gold rush.


  1. Read the letter from the storekeepers and butchers expressing their concerns.
    • What place is described?
    • What is the letter about?
    • Why has the letter been written?
    • What has caused the problem?
    • What solution does the letter propose?
    • What might happen if people don’t find a solution to the problem?
  2. Henry Lawson, a famous Australian writer and poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, travelled to Western Australia during the gold rush. Read his observations.
    • Why does he call gold a curse?
    • Who are the ‘sandgropers’, and who are the ‘othersiders’? Why might there be tension between them?
    • Does the storekeepers and butchers’ letter support and/or challenge Lawson’s view?
  3. Examine the photograph of a mining settlement. Imagine you had just built one of those cabins. Think about the difficulties with transportation, obtaining supplies, and the scarcity of water. Write a journal entry describing your new life on the goldfields, including your needs, hopes and worries.