Ford Street, 2020
32pp., hbk., RRP $a24.95
Victoria, Australia in the 1850s and the word of the discovery of gold is spreading around the world. Among the tens of thousands of everyday fold who flock to the goldfields are two young English brothers and another two from Canada. They decide to team up but they soon discover that despite the rumours, the streets are not lined with gold and nor is it just lying around to be picked up.
Searching for gold is hard work for little reward as you battle the elements, the environment, the crowds, the thieves, the law -and Ma Kilduff’s advice doesn’t really make things easier. Still they persevere until one day…
This is the “inside story” of the discovery of the first large nugget to be discovered in Victoria, the Blanche Barkly, taking the reader through the harsh, hard life that the goldfields afforded yet was accepted because of gold fever. However as well as the story itself, in the final few pages the reader is taken on a journey that provides even more detail beginning with the impact that the goldrush and subsequent discovery of the Blanche Barkly had on the Dja Dja Wurrung, the traditional owners of the land., giving an interesting and original perspective that could be explored further in any curriculum studies of the topic. Teaching notes are available but this lends itself to investigating lines of inquiry such as…
- How did the quest for gold impact the traditional owners of the land on which it took place?
- How did it affect the environment?
- Why did the government initially try to keep the discovery of gold a secret and did they make the right decision?
- As the world’s second largest gold producer in 2020, what lessons have been learned and what has changed since the first discoveries? What differences would Ma Kilduff notice?
- What has been the legacy of the goldrush 170 years on?
Alternatively, students could put themselves in the shoes of one of the characters from Ma Kilduff to Queen Victoria and research and retell the story from that personal perspective. Even just asking, “What did the author and illustrator need to know to produce this book?” would lead to some interesting investigations.
Hopefully the days of “This is Year 5 so it’s gold” and the meaningless study of facts and figures have disappeared so having s book as rich as this in offering different ways to learn about a critical part of Australia’s history is as precious as the metal itself.