Black Gold: Aboriginal People on the Gold Fields of Victoria
Black Gold: Aboriginal People on the Gold Fields of Victoria.
Fred Cahir, Senior Lecturer at University of Ballarat will talk about his book: ”Black Gold: Aboriginals on the Gold Fields Victoria”. The book documents the role of Aboriginal people on the Gold Fields of Victoria during 1850 to 1870.
Fred Cahir tells the story about the magnitude of Aboriginal involvement on the Victorian goldfields in the middle of the nineteenth century, such as their extensive involvement as miners, police, traders, entertainers and activists. The first history of Aboriginal–white interaction on the Victorian goldfields, Black Gold offers new insights on one of the great epochs in Australian and world history—the gold story. Many Aboriginal families remained in the gold areas, participated in gold mining and interacted with non-Indigenous families in a whole range of hitherto neglected ways, whilst maintaining many of their traditional customs.
In newspaper articles, reminiscences, letters and diaries are many inferences to Aboriginal miners on Australian goldfields. For example, some gullies, leads or mines are believed to be named after their Indigenous discoverers or at least attributed to Aboriginal people because of their proximity or some fact connected with them.
In vivid detail it describes how Aboriginal people often figured significantly in the search for gold and documents the devastating social impact of gold mining on Victorian Aboriginal communities. It reveals the complexity of their involvement from passive presence, to active discovery, to shunning the goldfields.
Running through Fred Cahir’s book are themes of Aboriginal empowerment, identity, integration, resistance, social disruption and communication. Aboriginal voices occasionally not only decried the loss of their land to the white people but also demonstrate their incredulousness and poor opinion of non-Indigenous people’s bush skills It was food that provided the most potent motivation for non-Indigenous miners to explore, adapt and adopt parts of Aboriginal culture. The exorbitantly high prices of food during the initial alluvial gold rush period prompted many miners to try Aboriginal foods.
The gold rushes were the precursor for ‘a world turned upside down’ not just for the immigrant colonists but for Aboriginal people as well.
For more on Fred Cahir or other speakers at the upcoming VAFHO Conference: Under the Southern Cross – A Goldfields Experience: