The Federation Press

Adjudication on the Gold Fields in New South Wales and Victoria in the 19th Century


This book deals with the inception and development of adjudication systems on the gold fields in New South Wales and Victoria in the 19th century. 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 work is to examine what these systems were, to discover what records of them have survived and to expose samples of those records. The work concentrates on the period from 1851 to 1875 when the adjudication systems were at their most active. It records the changing legislative provisions relating to adjudication in that period. It explores and contrasts the success of the early system in New South Wales with its failure in Victoria.

The book 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 work thus presents, for the first time, an account of these adjudicative systems.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Justice Geoff Lindsay

1.    Introduction and Plan
2.   History and Social Background
3.   Origins of the 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 in 1855 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.  TA 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

Appendix 1. Table of Cases: Record of Cases Determined in Beechworth Local Court

Appendix 2: Cases From Hill End Bench Book

Appendix 3: Register of Complaints in Sofala Warden’s Court



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