Bendigo Goldfields Petition 1853
The 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition from Victoria, Australia, is 13 metres in length and bound in green silk. Drawn up in mid-1853, the petition was signed by over 5000 diggers on the Victorian goldfields who were angry about the mining licence fees imposed by the government and the system by which they were collected.
Once thought to be lost, the Petition was presented to the State Library of Victoria in 1988 by Melbourne collector, Dr John Chapman. Its discovery is particularly valuable for historians and genealogists investigating the history of social and political events during the gold rushes in Victoria.
It is believed the first major discovery of gold in Victoria was in early August 1851 at Buninyong, near Ballarat. Two months later it was discovered at Bendigo. By mid-1853 around 60,000 diggers and their families were on the Victorian goldfields - nearly 23,000 of these were at Bendigo. In June 1853 an anti-gold licence association was formed at Bendigo to give voice to the diggers' many grievances about their conditions. Led by GE Thomson, Dr Jones and an Irish-born American, 'Captain' Edward Brown, the association focused its attention on the 30 shillings monthly licence fee miners were required to pay to the government.
These three men drew up a petition outlining the diggers' grievances and calling for a reduced licence fee, improved law and order, the right to vote and the right to buy land. The petition was signed by diggers at Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine, McIvor (Heathcote), Mount Alexander (Harcourt) and other diggings.
The petition was brought to Melbourne and presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe on the 1 August 1853. Most of its demands, including the reduction in the licence fee, were rejected. Eventually the diggers' dissatisfaction erupted, culminating in the Eureka uprising at Ballarat on 3 December 1854.