Bendigo goldfields petition
Once thought to be lost, the Bendigo Goldfields Petition was discovered by chance lying in a pile of papers on a rubbish tip. Some 13 metres in length and bound in green silk, it’s a milestone document in the state’s history.
The petition was signed by over 5000 diggers on the Victorian goldfields in mid-1853. At the time, the signatures represented about one in 12 diggers.
In June 1853 an anti-gold licence association was formed at Bendigo to give voice to the diggers' many grievances about their conditions. The diggers were angry about the mining licence fees imposed by the government and the system by which they were collected.
The petition was signed by miners across the state’s major goldfields and was brought to Melbourne and presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe on 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.
Dr John Chapman, a Melbourne collector, purchased the petition from its discoverer and presented it to the State Library of Victoria in 1988. Its discovery is particularly valuable for historians and genealogists investigating the history of social and political events during the gold rushes in Victoria.