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Video clip synopsis – Gold, more than any other single factor, transformed the Australian colonies.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 2min 58sec
Tags - Australian History, colonisation, Constructing Australia, federation, identity, Kalgoorlie, national interest, nationalism, natural resources, pioneers, see all tags


Gold Rush in the West

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About the Video Clip


Gold Rush in the West is an excerpt from the film Pipe Dreams (55 mins), the second episode of the three-part series entitled Constructing Australia, produced in 2007.

Constructing Australia
Politics, tragedy and conquest combine in stories behind the building of Australia. The Bridge, Pipe Dreams, and A Wire Through the Heart, combine rare archival images with dramatic storytelling in showcasing three landmark events that would allow Australia to mark its place in the world. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Kalgoorlie Pipeline and the Overland Telegraph line were engineering triumphs, but the human drama in constructing Australia is even more fascinating.

Pipe Dreams
From the remote coast of Western Australia, to deep within its inhospitable interior, an immense water pipeline was being constructed that would unlock countless riches and help build the nation. This is a story of personal tragedy, political rivalries, corruption and trial by media that nearly tore apart Australia at the moment of its birth.

Pipe Dreams was produced with the assistance of ScreenWest and Lottery West. Developed and produced in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. A Film Australia Making History Production in association with Prospero Productions.

Curriculum Focus


Outcomes from this module

Historical knowledge and understanding
Students will learn about the significance of the gold rushes in Australia.

Historical reasoning and interpretation

  • Students will use a range of written, visual, oral and electronic sources to study the gold rushes.
  • Students will learn to question sources and make judgments about the viewpoints being expressed, the completeness of the evidence, and the values represented.
  • Students will create a presentation of life on the gold fields in a range of forms such as timelines, oral presentations, posters, multimedia presentations, reports and narratives.

Background Information


Gold, more than any other single factor, transformed the Australian colonies.

In 1851, New South Wales and Victoria, followed by Western Australia in 1890 were granted self-government just before major gold discoveries were made. Gold drew new populations in such numbers that the old colonists were swamped.

By the1890s the heady days of the rushes in eastern Australia were long-gone, but the dream returned on the far side of the continent. In the late 1880s, alluvial gold was found in sites scattered across Western Australia, but only in small amounts.

The discovery of gold in Coolgardie in 1892 and Kalgoorlie in 1893 not only brought wealth to Western Australia, it brought “t’othersiders”—gold-seekers from the eastern colonies on the other side of the Nullarbor Desert.

Some 4,500 miners arrived in 1892; 5,000 the following year. Isolated goldfields were ripe with precious metal, but the people were dying of thirst.

Two men shared a vision for opening up Western Australia by pumping a river of water through pipes across the desert. The state’s first Premier and leading explorer, John Forrest, had a vision to take water to the goldfields. In Chief Engineer Charles Yelverton O’Connor, he found the man he needed to turn his dreams into reality.

The Coolgardie Water Scheme, at the time the biggest and most ambitious engineering project of its kind in the world, would save thousands from disease and drought, unlock untold riches in gold and allow the ‘Cinderella’ state of Western Australia to take her rightful place in Australia’s Commonwealth.

The five long years of the pipeline’s construction would be dogged with controversy, destroy reputations and push O’Connor to breaking point. As Australia voted for Federation, becoming the new Australian Commonwealth, the dream of water in the goldfields finally became a reality.

Classroom Activities


Getting Started

  1. How is the start of the Gold Rush in Western Australia depicted in this clip?
    1. What are the key events in the clip? Write a timeline on the board and discuss.
    2. What evidence is produced to demonstrate the historic events? For example, photographs, testimony from eye witnesses, historic records etc…
    3. Who were the t’othersiders?
    4. What was Forrest’s dream for Western Australia that depended upon the discovery of gold to be realised?
    5. What other towns and areas of Australia had gold rushes?
  2. How effective is the dramatic presentation of the gold rush in this clip?
    1. Describe life in the mining communities as presented in the clip.
    2. Discuss whether a dramatic presentation of historical events can present all of the facts completely.
    3. What other sources are required to learn about historical events?
  3. Choose another area of Australia that has also depended upon gold mining (Ballarat, Bendigo etc), and research the events leading up to and after the discovery of gold. Present your research as a timeline, diary of a miner, poster, storyboard or interview.

Further Resources


Albert Gaston, Coolgardie Gold, Hesperian Press, 1984

Go to The Golden Pipeline