The Golden Years

Australians take great pride in being seen as important players on the world stage. That is why our politicians’ glory in signing us up to help solve the world’s intractable problems because we are told that as a nation, we ‘punch well above our weight.’

It probably no longer stems from the need to better our convict beginnings, but more likely our ‘cultural cringe,’ that draws the ‘ribbon cutters’ to something as innocuous as the opening of a new metro rail link which will always be trumpeted as better than world’s best, if that’s even possible. It seems a far cry from the grand nation-building projects of past decades which now seem beyond us.

Likewise, any sporting success we achieve is heralded in national news bulletins, and every Australian is an instant expert in ‘whatever it is’ until we wring our collective hands in angst when someone knocks us off our perch. As new emerging or revitalized nations with far hungrier and bigger populations take us on, our golden years of dominance in swimming and tennis and cricket are now well behind us.

However, as we sing along with our national anthem, Australian’s can still ‘rejoice’ that we don’t have to ‘make Australia great again,’ because by pure circumstance we are still ‘the lucky country’ with a golden future.

With a population of just 25 million, we lay claim to a vast continent that’s brimming with the raw resources that the world requires. It is also fortuitous that we are an island nation sitting at the bottom of the globe and so far away from the masses of desperate people crossing borders in search of a new life.

Australia welcomed refugees after WWII who brought new diversity to our culture and were set to work on projects like ‘the Snowy River Scheme.’ Now new arrivals are looked upon as a problem not an asset by the current crop of politicians whose idea of nation-building is pure hyperbole.

As with the United States, Britain and the rich nations of Europe, displaced people have also looked to Australia for refuge, but it’s draconian ‘turn back’ policy that parks ‘boat arrivals’ indefinitely in offshore internment camps have virtually stifled this human traffic. On this as a nation we have form but, it is also why if you are lucky enough to be embraced as an Australian it is the equivalent of being struck in the backside with a golden rainbow.

And in fact, it was ‘gold’ that first drew world attention on our fledgling nation. After a mother lode was discovered in the goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo in the 1850s the Victorian capital of Melbourne was quickly transformed into the place to be for those seeking a new and prosperous life. A booming economy that would’ve attracted even ‘Dick Whittington’ was open to all-comers and, with the lure of gold, Australia’s population exploded with the arrival of boatloads of English, Irish, Germans, and the fortune-seeking Chinese.

But fortune fosters greed and, when Chinese miners tried to re-enter Victoria on the vessels ‘Afghan’ and ‘Tsinan’ in 1889, they were turned back at the docks by angry crowds spurred on by a hostile press promoting ‘the White Australia Policy.’

The devastating recession which racked the Australian colonies in 1893 can be attributed in part to the curtailing of open immigration which it can also be argued lowered the trajectory of the Australian economy for the next fifty years.

However, through all its ups and downs, Australia’s gold mines kept it near the top of the World’s biggest producers, first profiting from the mines in Victoria and Queensland and then in recent decades by production from the Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie goldfields of Western Australia.

And, so it was about ten years back that a cashed-up ‘grey-nomad’ ventured into the bar of a Kalgoorlie Hotel letting it be known to all and sundry that he was interested in buying the biggest natural gold nugget in the district. It took two or three days of thirsty drinking before a dusty prospector from Coolgardie tapped him on the shoulder and handed him the fist-sized nugget that we have in our sale. Weighing in at 609.6 grams or 19.60 Troy ounces of nearly pure gold it is surely a whopper.

With gold currently trading around AUD $2,000 per Troy Ounce, it represents great value for the ‘gold-bug’ who has everything.