Alfred Deakin Institute
The Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) is a leading humanities and social sciences research institute based at Deakin University, Australia. Our researchers aim to understand the complex meanings of citizenship, social inclusion and globalisation, and investigate the imp


An Archaeology of Quality of Life during Victoria’s Gold Rush Era, 1851-1880


Economic boom to bust cycles have significant implications for both individual quality of life and social structure. This project is tracing the impact by comparing the material and wealth trajectories of people who lived during Victoria’s 19th-century Gold rush.

Sarah Hayes DECRA.JPG

Social change and wealth generated by the Gold rush brought leisure, disposable income and relative security to many living in Victoria’s cities. These gains were not so readily felt by those at the lower orders and came at great cost to Aboriginal people causing further displacement from their lands with compounding negative outcomes.

The primary aim of the project is to investigate how individuals responded and contributed to Victoria’s social and economic transformation in the gold rush era, and how it shaped the concept of quality of life. In addressing this aim, the project will integrate material cultural, archaeological and historical evidence of selected settler and Aboriginal individuals and families who lived in and were dispossessed from Melbourne and Bendigo during the gold rush era, to examine quality of life over their lifetime and for the next generation. Central here is the way in which people interacted with material culture—their possessions, homes and environment—to secure a living, make a better life or cope with their circumstances.

The project will contextualise Victoria’s social and economic transformation against global industrialisation and gold rushes elsewhere in order to understand how the values of quality of life that emerged were distinctive to Australia. Understanding such social transformations in the past has potential implications for considering the social and political impacts of contemporary economic and social change in Australia, particularly the effects on quality of life of the current mining boom including destruction of Aboriginal heritage, social and familial dislocation, job security, secure retirement and the impact on the next generation.


Lead Investigator:
Dr Sarah Hayes


Research Assistants:
Dr Edwina Kay
Dr Barbara Minchinton



Academic Publications 

Minchinton, B. and S. Hayes, 2018, Dating Melbourne’s Cesspits: Digging through the Archives. Provenance 16: online.

Hayes, S. 2018, A Golden Opportunity: Mayor Smith and Melbourne’s Emergence as a Global City, International Journal for Historical Archaeology, 22(1):100-116.

Hayes, S. and B. Minchinton, 2016, Melbourne’s Waste Management History and Cesspit Formation Processes: Evidence from Little Lon, Australian Archaeology, 82(1): 12-24.

  Media Articles 

Hayes, S. 2018, Sex and the Sisterhood: How prostitution worked for women in 19th-century Melbourne, The Conversation, 14 February.

Hayes, S. 2017, Gold Rush Victoria was as Wasteful as we are Today, The Conversation, 29 June.

 Select Radio Interviews 

Hayes, S. and M. Anderson, 2018, Life During the Gold Rush, Life Matters, ABC Radio National, 10 May.

Hayes, S. 2018, Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century Melbourne, The Daily, 2ser, 15 February.

Hayes, S. 2017, Mornings, ABC Radio Central Victoria, 21 August.

Hayes, S. 2017, Breakfast with Stephanie Coombes, ABC Radio Kimberley, 4 July.

 Exhibitions and Online Content

Gold Rush: 20 Objects, 20 Stories, Old Treasury Building, 2018-2019

Project Funding

This project is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award.