Teacher’s notes for Goldfields Girl

Society and Environment

When Arthur Bayley discovered the Bayley’s Reward Reef 168 miles east of Southern Cross in 1892 people from all over the world flocked to Western Australia. This gold rush is still regarded as the largest movement of people in Australian history.

People from all professions and walks of life were thrown together in a harsh, remote and waterless desert.

Research the types of

  • soil
  • climate
  • vegetation, they found there.

How did they travel to this remote location?
What sort of shelters did they put up when they arrived?
Where did they get their water, food, clothing?

Clara arrived at Mr Wisdom’s new Exchange Hotel with one dress for working in and one dress for ‘best’. She had one pair of serviceable boots.

  • How many dresses or shirts do you own?
  • How many pairs of shoes, sneakers, boots?
  • Compare the work clothes worn by Clara with those worn by hotel and cafe staff today.
  • When Clara’s boots wore out what did she do?
  • When your shoes, sandals or boots wear out what do you do?
  • Mrs Fagan needed bloomers that didn’t show the red dust in Coolgardie.
  • Where did she get them from?

Arthur Bayley and his partner, William Ford, became multi-billionaires overnight. Did everyone who went to Coolgardie in that first rush make a fortune?If they didn’t strike it rich straight away, how did they survive?

  • Research the population figures for Coolgardie in 1892, 1894, 1906.
  • Calculate (roughly) the ratio of men to women living in Coolgardie in each of the years above.
  • Show these figures as a graph, spread sheet or pie-chart.

Prospecting on the remote Coolgardie diggings in those days was hot, hard and dusty work. There was, of course, no TV or internet.

  • What sort of entertainment did the men and women create for themselves?

In the first two weeks the population on the new ‘diggings’ went from 0 to 2000 men – and two women. Did who they were, where they came from, or how much money they brought with them, make a difference to:

  • what sort of shelter they lived in?
  • what they drank?
  • what they ate?
  • what they wore?

Compare attitudes to and expectations of women then (1890s) and now.

During her journey from Queensland to Southern Cross, then on to Coolgardie, Clara travelled on many different forms of transport. Can you list them?

While living in Coolgardie she relied on other forms of transport to bring essential goods and equipment to the town. Add these to your list.

Does your list contain coastal steamer, buckboard buggy, horse-drawn coach, donkey cart, camel train, steam train?

Which of these forms of transport are still used commercially today?

Name any new forms of transport that have come into general use since the 1890s.


Imagine you are going on a three day journey into the desert in a buckboard buggy. Write a story, or a series of diary entries, about your experiences. Use your own home as a starting point.

What will you need to take?

  • for yourself?
  • for the horses?

Reread the account of Clara’s journey from York to Southern Cross in 1892 (Goldfields Girl pp 17 – 24)

  • Plan a journey of your own for the next school holidays.
  • Research on the internet: Perth to Coolgardie by train, plane, bus, car, bicycle, horse, camel
  • Write down how many kilometres.
  • What sort of roads, tracks?
  • Which towns will you pass through?
  • How many rivers will you cross?
  • Mark on a map the route you will need to take from Perth to Coolgardie.

English (Reading)

In 1892, how did people communicate with each other between:

  • Brisbane and Southern Cross?
  • Perth and Coolgardie?
  • Southern Cross and Coolgardie?

Roughly how long did it take for a letter to reach any one of these three destinations?

How did the Wongatha Aboriginal people communicate with other family groups in the Yilgarn area?

How did they communicate with the Yamagi mob from the Geraldton and wider mid-west area?

English (Writing)

Write a letter and post it to a friend who lives

  • In the same city
  • In rural Australia
  • Overseas

Ask your friend to email you when the letter arrives.

  • How much did it cost?
  • How long did it take to get there?

Goldfields Girl is written from Clara’s first-person point of view. Select one or two major events from her story and retell them from the point of view of,

  • Mrs Fagan
  • Jack
  • The donkey

Imagine you are a reporter for the newly formed Coolgardie Miner. Interview:

  • Clara about different aspects of the social life of Coolgardie in 1892, including dances, sing-a-longs, picnics, race meetings and parties.
  • Warden Finnerty about a ‘Crime File’ report you intend to write.

Write a general article for the newspaper. Do a Google search for pictures to accompany your article.

Lodge an advertisement for staff to work in the Exchange Hotel in Coolgardie, to be placed in the Perth Gazette early in 1893. Describe a now rich and thriving town of 6,000 inhabitants with a regular coach service, General Store, Church and School. What else will you mention?

  • water supply?
  • medical services?
  • housing?

Write your own bush ballad in humorous or sad, modern or old style.

  • Set it to music.
  • Use a basic percussion instrument to accompany your ballad.
  • Perform it as a rap.

Learn by heart one of the bush ballads from The Bulletin Reciter and perform it at assembly.

Invent your own tall tale to entertain your friends.

By the end of the 1960s Coolgardie had become a ghost town.

  • Imagine you are one of the ghosts who inhabit Coolgardie? Write your story.

English (Speaking and Listening)

Develop a play based on one of the scenes in Goldfields Girl (eg. the day Arthur Bayley put his ‘find’ on display in Southern Cross – remember the bank was really just a tin shed back then; or Clara’s journey to the new ‘field’ in Mr Snell’s coach; or the donkey wearing Mrs Fagan’s bloomers.)

  • Research clothing likely to be worn by your characters.
  • Make a painted backdrop, or a Powerpoint, you could use for your play.
  • Collect or make props.
  • Perform your play at a school assembly or as a fund-raiser for a local charity.

Maths (Measurement: mapping)

  • Locate, on a map of Western Australia, the towns of Fremantle, York, Southern Cross, Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie.
  • Draw a ‘mud map’ of the area and add the average annual rainfall of each town, either in millimetres or as coloured contours.
  • Calculate the length of time it would take to drive, in your family car, from Perth to Coolgardie travelling at an average speed of 100kmh. You will need to factor in one or two ‘comfort stops’, nominate a length of time for each one and add that to your total.
  • How long will it take to make the same journey on The Prospector train? Given that The Prospector doesn’t go to Coolgardie, how will you get from the nearest place where the train stops, to the town of Coolgardie? Check out the options for this part of the journey. Calculate the time that each of the options would take. Add this to the overall total of time for your whole journey.
  • Read the book, The Pipeline CY O’Connor Built, by Joy Lefroy. Mark on your map the route taken by the pipeline which still carries fresh water from Mundaring Weir through Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie. When you mark it on your map you will see that sometimes it runs alongside the Great Eastern Highway and sometimes it does not. If you were a kangaroo heading from Mundaring to Coolgardie, would you choose to follow the road or the pipeline? Why?

Maths (Data collection)

Set up a rain gauge at your school, or at home.

Check the gauge each day for

  • 1 month
  • 6 months.

Show your results on a graph or spread sheet.

  • Compare the results in your area with those of the Bureau of Meteorology for the same period.
  • Research the amount of rain that has fallen in Coolgardie over the same period of time.
  • How much difference, in millilitres, is there? Suggest at least two reasons why this might be so.
  • Make a list of the various minerals commonly found in the mining areas around Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

The price of gold, per ounce, on the Stock Exchange varies from day to day. Find out what price it is listed at today.

  • What price was it listed at on July 4th 1894?
  • Make a graph to show these results.

Further reading

  • A Fortunate Life, by Albert Facey, Fremantle Press, 2018
  • Jack’s Island, by Norman Jorgensen, Fremantle Press (2008)
  • Lighthouse Girl (2009), Light Horse Boy (2013) and In the Lamplight (2018) by Dianne Wolfer, Fremantle Press

Gold Rush Quiz

When Arthur Bayley and William Ford discovered the legendary Reward Reef 168 miles from Southern Cross, in 1892, not many people in the world knew where Western Australia was, let alone the tiny isolated town. And yet within a week there were 2000 men out there in the desert looking for gold. To pick up your own gold nuggets you will need to get out there quickly. And since the new diggings are not shown on any map you must use your general knowledge, or search the Internet.

Rules: Choose one of the 3 answers and circle it on a printout of the Quiz page.

1. Who rode in to Southern Cross in record time to register their claim?

(a) William Ford
(b) Arthur Bayley
(c) Paddy Hannan

A = pts.

2. From Perth, which direction will you need to take to find the Reward?

(a) North
(b) South
(c) East

A = pts

3. In 1892, how long did it take to reach the new ‘diggings’ by buggy?

(a) 3 or 4 days
(b) about 2 weeks
(c) more than a month

A = pts

4. What did most of the early prospectors die of?

(a) typhoid
(b) diarrhoea
(c) starvation

A = pts

5. How many of them actually struck it rich?

(a) 50%
(b) more than 50%
(c) about 10%

A = pts

To check your answers look below the image.

A letter from home

Answers to Gold Rush quiz:

Q1. (b) Arthur Bayley
Q2. (c) east
Q3. (a) 3-4 days
Q4. (a) typhoid
Q5. (c) about 10%