A literature has developed recently to analyze the disruptive effects on small, open economies of a sudden change in the value of their natural resources. The paper looks to that literature to explain the effect on the Australian colonies of the discovery of substantial gold deposits in the 1850s. The price and quantity adjustments predicted by the model are found to be well supported by the historical experience with one important exception. Immigration played a far greater role in the Australian case than has been suggested in the theoretical literature. The model does, however, allow for a compact description of the confusing decade in Australian history and explains a number of previously unconnected phenomena.