With the discovery of Australian gold in the 1850s Victoria soon became the epicentre of the Australian gold rush.
The authorities introduced a licence system on the goldfields.
A miner’s licence allowed a digger to keep whatever gold they found on their claim.
Without a licence – which had to be purchased in advance, in this case for a fee of 5 shillings for a year – a miner was deemed to be stealing from Crown property and was liable to suffer criminal proceedings.
Licence hunts caused great resentment within the mining communities, especially as the police employed to enforce the licencing system were notoriously corrupt and behaved with excessive brutality.
A miner was required to carry their licence at all times and to produce it on demand from an authorised officer of the law.
Failure to produce it, no matter what the circumstances, meant being chained to a log and fined by the resident commissioner.