Life on the Fields

Article | Updated 9 months ago

The population explosion that occurred on the goldfields after Hannan's find brought together many different cultures, and a unique way of life soon emerged. The goldfields, like any other community, saw both good and bad times. Trade unions were set up to help miners achieve common goals and rights, which aimed to smooth these undulations.   

Families were often brought to the goldfields by husbands and fathers hoping to make their fortune. Women faced domestic hardship as they struggled to care for themselves and their children, who were often forced to live in tents or ramshackle huts.

The large, diverse population, often living in cramped communities, meant that health care was sorely needed, and nurses, such as Matron Bessie Wray, were looked to for care and support.

Transport was a major issue, and camels and bicycles soon became the popular choice. Cycling developed into a fashionable sport, which caused quite a stir within conservative European society, but not more so than gambling, which became a moral sore-spot. Other sports, such as cricket, swimming and 'sailing', were also popular.

Sailing model yachts, Kalgoorlie, 1900s
Sailing model yachts, Kalgoorlie, 1900s
Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia 3395B/75

Another moral issue was prostitution, which caused not only social tension, but increased the risk of disease in an already fragile health environment.

There can be no denying that life on the 'fields could be tough, but that was a risk many were willing to take.