Gold-Rush Town.. 157 Years Later: Melbourne, Australia

I now hold an Australian library card. I had to get a one to use the free wireless Internet at the State Library of Victoria, the Australian state that includes Melbourne. The library is worth a visit if only to see its reading room. To spare ourselves the locker fee, my husband waited outside with our backpacks. David sat outside in the sun, as he is fond of reminding me, while l used the Internet and recharged my little handheld computer, a Hewlett-Packard Ipaq PDA, in the library.
Since I didn’t bring a camera, below is a picture o from Wikipedia that David Iliff posted for common use.

Making a City

The library was part of Melbourne’s funneling of gold-rush profits into a proper city. An Australian named Edward Hargraves noticed how his home country looked like California, where he had been prospecting, according to this government site, . By 1851, gold had been found in Australia. The site says that Victoria contributed more than one third of the world’s gold in the 1850s The population there jumped to 540,000 from 77,000 in two years.
The gold rush drew more immigrants to Australia than the number of convicts who arrived in the previous seventy years, the site said. The population about tripled to 1.7 million in 1871 from 430,000 in 1851. Melbourne opened its library in 1856, along with grand buildings such as the Customs House.

Mateship

The Austrian government site says the gold rush helped in the development of mateship, the national spirit that encourages people to work together. Hokey as it sounds, you not only hear people calling each other mate every day, you see them constantly doing a bit more for each other than we do in the U.S.
The woman at the State Library of Victoria information desk who explained to me that I would need a card to use the Internet also called over to check that I could get one. She addressed her colleague as “matey” on the phone as she made sure that I only needed my passport to get a card and then took things a step beyond what I’d asked inquired about what borrowing privileges I might get.
We heard an Australian politician on a Sunday talk show defend his country’s presence in Iraq by citing the nation’s “mateship” with the U.S. Storekeepers and bartenders greet customers as “mate.” It sets a nice tone to transactions, an expectation that you’ll be treated fairly and are expected to behave well.
It reminded me of how employees in Washington, D.C.’s transit system, especially the older women, use endearments that calm customers. You know workers will take your malfunctioning Metro entry card seriously when they greet you at the service booth with “What’s the matter, baby?”
When David and I accidentally exited too soon from the Sydney subway, a worker helped us recover our costly tickets. A woman in perhaps her 50s who seemed a fairly recent immigrant opened up the boxes in the exit gates to find our tickets. She didn’t want us to have to buy new tickets to finish our trip.
We thanked her for looking and again for finding the tickets.
“No worries,” she answered, giving a Slavic accent to that most Australian of phrases.

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