Uncovering the history of how South Yorkshire workers followed the gold rush to Australia is the focus of a new project between Sheffield Hallam University and La Trobe University.

The online project, ‘Mining, Migration and Municipal Identity: South Yorkshire and Victoria during the Gold Rush and Industrialisation’ examines the history of migration from South Yorkshire and the fates of those migrants who made the perilous journey to Australia during the 1850s.

Examining issues of identity and culture, 18 students from both Sheffield Hallam University and La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, have worked together to produce projects focusing on a range of topics.

These included the consumption of absinthe in underworld drinking dens in Melbourne, the origins and design of the Australian national flag and the journey of one migrant, John Dickinson, from South Yorkshire to St. Arnaud.

John Dickinson was an agricultural labourer from Campsall near Doncaster who found his way to St. Arnaud, Victoria where he made his fortune selling goods to miners.

More than 100 years later, John’s great-great-great-great, grandson, Thomas Amos, a fourth-year student from La Trobe University, worked on the module with Sheffield Hallam students.

Thomas said: “There were a couple of reasons why I was interested in this subject. My hometown of St. Arnaud was a gold mining town established during the Victorian gold rush.

“I have also recently been studying my family history for another subject, and that was where I learnt that my great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Dickinson, originated from Yorkshire!”

Tony Taylor, professor of history at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “The project really made me think about the interconnected nature of the world and the degree to which cultures overlap – even during the period of the steamship and the telegraph.”

La Trobe University has allocated a further $10,000 Australian dollars, equivalent to roughly £5,200, to develop the ‘Mining, Migration and Municipal Identity’ project further for Spring 2022.

The new collaboration is the latest part of the Global Strategic Partnership, officially established in 2019 between both Sheffield Hallam and La Trobe.

The aim of the partnership is to provide students with an international learning experience, to work collaboratively on research and innovation projects with global impact, and to share good practice and innovative approaches to higher education.