“T'othersiders” came to Western Australia, as the name implies, from the other side of Australia, brought to the colony by the lure of gold. A severe economic downturn in eastern Australia during the early 1890s had coincided with the discovery of large deposits of alluvial gold in Western Australia in 1892. The subsequent gold rush saw a massive influx of people seeking their fortunes, bringing great changes to Western Australia.
The huge boost in population and the wealth generated by the goldfields dramatically altered the social, political and economic make-up of Western Australia. Until the 1890s, Western Australia's land, wealth and power had been concentrated in the hands of a few families. The miners in the goldfields community brought with them ideas of nationalism, egalitarianism, socialism and republicanism. There was constant tension between the newly arrived t'othersiders and the colony's conservative elite.
Many native-born and long-term residents of Western Australia were suspicious of the recent arrivals. Western Australia's Premier, John Forrest, wanted to use the wealth generated by the gold rush for the long-term development of agricultural and pastoral industries to ensure continued prosperity. Many were skeptical about the long-term future of the goldfields and doubted that the t'othersiders would remain resident in Western Australia once the gold had run out.
T'othersiders felt discriminated against due to a lack of adequate Parliamentary representation and the absence of key services such as fresh water. Many miners felt Perth to be remote and indifferent to their concerns. Some had never even been to Perth, having arrived in Western Australia via Albany or Esperance or having crossed the continent overland.
For several years the conservative Legislative Council blocked moves to hold a referendum to decide on Federation. Members feared that the vote would be skewed by those born and raised in other parts of Australia. In the end, t'othersiders helped Western Australia to return an overwhelming majority in favour of Federation. More than half the 'Yes' vote came from the goldfields, a fact that would lead Secessionists to claim that the referendum failed to reflect the true will of Western Australians.
- Why do you think the T’othersiders had such different views to longer term residents of WA?
- What were some concerns that long term residents had about T’othersiders? Can you find evidence of these in newspapers of the day?
- Do you think current residents of WA have similar attitudes to new arrivals? Why or why not?