6:30pm, March 16, 2017

Liquid gold: How controlling water made Victoria’s miners rich

A Melbourne Free University lecture by Susan Lawrence, La Trobe University

Venue: The Alderman (upstairs) 134 Lygon St, East Brunswick
Format: presentation – 45 minutes, open discussion – 45 minutes

Buying and selling water is worth billions of dollars in every year, but where did this idea come from? Where did we get the idea that people could profit from a natural asset? Abandoned dams and ditches across central Victoria provide a clue. Long before modern water markets gold miners were struggling for control over water. They had fist-fights in the streets, crept out in the middle of the night to steal water from their neighbours, and hauled each other through the courts for a decade. By the time they were finished water was a commodity and the water bosses had made fortunes. They left a legacy of laws that started to show us how to share water and how to protect the environment.

More information about Melbourne Free University’s History Matters series is available here.

Image: S. T. Gill, Diggings in the Mount Alexander district of Victoria in 1852, courtesy NLA.