Welcome Stranger: History points to golden future

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Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

John Deason and Richard Oates are not household names but perhaps they should be as 150 years ago this month, they made a discovery that still makes news today.  

On 5 February 1869, the two miners discovered the largest gold nugget ever found, near Moliagul, 60 km west of Bendigo. Weighing around 66 kilograms, the Welcome Stranger nugget is world famous and a symbol of Victoria’s gold-rush heritage.

This month around 150 people gathered at the site where it is thought the nugget was found. Some dressed in Victorian era clothing, a few were direct descendants of the miners and those who helped get the nugget to the bank, but all were captivated by this rags to riches tale.

Victoria’s wealth was built on gold and even by 1869 the Geological Survey of Victoria had been created to help those with gold fever navigate the geology of the state.  

"Modern geoscience actually tells us that there could be as much gold still in the ground as has been extracted over 170 years or so both by hand and commercial, modern mining," said Director of the Geological Survey of Victoria, Paul McDonald.

"Gold mining in Victoria is on a real upturn with more gold being found deep underground using contemporary mining techniques and based on the latest geoscience data. Modern mineral explorers are tracing the steps of the pioneers as they had the basics right but not the added advantages we have today."

"Minerals exploration and mining today employs thousands of people in regional Victoria, both directly and via contractors, services, motels and the like in different towns. If it wasn’t for the gold pioneers like John Deason and Richard Oates, Victoria would be very different."

The Geological Survey of Victoria would like to thank the Goldfields Historical and Arts Society for organising the event this week. A special exhibition at the Dunolly Museum continues, celebrating the Welcome Stranger find at Moliagul.