Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (1.94 MB)

Adjudication on the gold fields in New South Wales and Victoria in the 19th century

Download (1.94 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 15:03 authored by John P. Hamilton
The sudden onset of the gold rushes in New South Wales and Victoria in 1851 created an immediate necessity for a system of resolving disputes among gold miners. Despite a large literature on the gold rushes generally, virtually nothing has been written on the adjudication systems. The aim of this thesis is to examine what these systems were, to discover what records of them have survived and to expose samples of those records. The thesis concentrates on the period from 1851-1875 when the adjudication systems were at their most active. It records the changing legislative provisions relating to adjudication in that period. The first adjudicative institution created in both New South Wales and Victoria was Gold Fields Commissioners appointed under the Crown Lands Act 1833. In New South Wales the first Commissioner appointed was John Richard Hardy who reached the Western Gold Fields at the beginning of June 1851 and immediately started both issuing licences to mine and settling disputes. The Commissioners operated in Victoria only until 1855. Having been discredited as a result of the events leading up to the Eureka Stockade, they were then replaced by Wardens and Local Courts. However, the Commissioners were successful in New South Wales, in part because of the personal qualities of Hardy, and continued to operate in one form or another until 1874 when they were replaced by Wardens’ Courts. The thesis explores what records survive of adjudications in both Colonies and incorporates samples of them. It examines in some detail the career of Thomas Alexander Browne (who was the novelist Rolf Boldrewood) as the Commissioner at Gulgong in the early 1870s and who, atypically of Gold Fields Commissioners, was at odds with his community. It also examines the reported cases in the Supreme Courts concerning gold fields adjudication. The thesis thus presents, for the first time, an account of these adjudicative systems. After 1875 a system of Mining Wardens’ Courts for determining mining disputes became universal throughout Australia, and widely used beyond, which system, in one form or another, has persisted into the 21st century.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction and plan -- 2. History and social background -- Origins of system -- 4. Legislative history in New South Wales and Victoria -- 5. The establishment of gold commissioners as adjudicators -- 6. The establishment of local courts and wardens in Victoria and their operation until 1858 -- 7. Continued operation of commissioners in New South Wales from 1853 to 1866 -- 8. The 1866 legislation and the New South Wales Royal Commission of 1870-71 -- 9. Continued operation of adjudicators in New South Wales from 1867 to 1873 -- 10. The establishment of the Victorian Courts of Mines and Wardens' Courts in 1858, their operation from 1858 to 1875 and comparison with the New South Wales system -- 11. T A Browne and Gulgong -- 12. Browne v Browne -- 13. Wardens' Courts in New South Wales from 1874 -- 14. Jurisprudence in superior courts concerning adjudication system -- 15. History of Wardens' Courts after 1875 -- 16. Conclusion.


Bibliography: pages 405-417 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie Law School

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Law School

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Peter Radan

Additional Supervisor 1

Bruce Kercher

Additional Supervisor 2

Andrew Buck


Copyright John P. Hamilton 2014. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (417 pages) tables

Former Identifiers