'the germ of Australian independence'

The torn Eureka Flag Courtesy of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and Australian Museums & Galleries Online

The Southern Cross was hoisted up the flagstaff - a very splendid pole, eighty feet in length, and straight as an arrow. This maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of the armed men, sturdy, self-over-working gold diggers of all languages and colours was a fascinating object to behold. There is no flag in old Europe half so beautiful as the Southern Cross of the Ballarat miners, first hoisted on the old spot, Bakery Hill. The flag is silk, blue ground, with a large silver cross similar to the one in our southern firmament; no device of arms, but all exceedingly chaste and natural.

Carboni Raffaello, The Eureka Stockade.

Men of Fifty-Four
Forward from Eureka

But no in vain those diggers died. Their comrades may rejoice.
For o'er the voice of tyranny is heard the people's voice;
It says: "Reform your rotten law, the diggers wrongs' make right.
Or else with them, our brothers now, we'll gather to the fight."

Henry Lawson

The Men of Eureka

They have gone out, the men of Eureka,
One by one they have passed. Now there is none
Of them left to sit by the fire and talk;
For them, life's journey is over and done.
Digger by digger they marched,
Each man in his order;
As digger by digger they went
Over the border.

Mary Gilmore.

Mark Twain on Eureka

By and by there was a result; and I think it may be called the finest thing in Australasian history. It was a revolution - small in size, but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for a principle, a stand against injustice and oppression. It was the Barons and John over again; it was Hampden and Ship-Money; it was Concord and Lexington.... It was another instance of a victory wond by a lost battle.

Mark Twain, More Tramps Abroad

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A day Australians could be celebrating

Eureka Stockade

The event, which came to be known as Eureka, on Sunday 3 December 1854 did not happen by accident. Goaded by three years of repressive and corrupt administration at Ballarat, the diggers formed the Ballarat Reform League on 11 November. The League demanded full civic rights together with abolition of the license fee and proclaimed the doctrine that 'the people are the only legitimate source of all political power'. The editor of the local Ballarat Times called the League, 'the germ of Australian independence', while in London Karl Marx, when he heard of the goings on at Ballarat, prophesied that the movement there would be quickly suppressed. Marx was right.

On 1 December, a group of about 200 diggers gathered within a flimsy and hastily-erected stockade of logs near the Eureka lead. They were determined to resist, if necessary by arms, any further arrests for the non-possession of a license, but they made no plans to launch an attack on anyone. Hotham and his Ballarat subordinates were equally determined to break the resistance of the diggers by the use of superior arms. They were convinced that the diggers' movement was organized by seditious foreigners. In fact the diggers were not in revolt and, apart from a few enthusiasts, they had no republican ideals. Essentially they demanded the fundamental right to be treated with respect, which time after time had been denied them when they were dragged from their damp holes and ordered to produce license. Failure to do so resulted in being forcibly carted off into custody where they were fined. Apart from the question of taxation without representation, which the license fee virtually imposed, the diggers wanted a chance to settle on the land, most of which was still held by squatters.

Over thirty of them died on that Sunday morning, when outnumbered by more than two to one, they were attacked at dawn by police and troops, five of whom also lost their lives. It was later said that they died in vain because the freedoms and the rights for which they sacrificed their lives would have eventually been granted in any case. Reform did come in 1855, when the license was abolished and replaced by an annual miner's right. This also gave an entitlement to stand for parliament and to vote in elections. The diggers' leader, Peter Lalor, bewailed the fact that the English so often found it necessary to baptize in blood the rights they granted.

The men of Eureka left behind a legacy carried on in prose, poetry and painting and in the powerful symbol of their flag. The flag, with its white cross and five stars on a blue background denoting the Southern Cross was a thing of beauty under which free people could stand upright and proud.

The Southern Cross flew briefly for those few days at Eureka but long and purposefully enough to win its place in the loyalty of many Australians. The Eureka rebellion is considered by some historians to be the birthplace of Australian democracy.

Spirit of Eureka

Many of us are guilty of taking hard won rights for granted! Few Australians would think to stop and give thanks to these miners who defied establishment and won democratic rights.

Gratitude is the art of receiving gratefully, of showing appreciation for kindness great and small. It is easy to show gratitude when you receive a gift or an obvious benefit and, alas, just as easy to forget to show gratitude for seemingly less personal benefits.

1. Keep a gratitude journal this month. In honour of the forty-fivers do 45vers - a list of 45 things you are grateful for - 45 things worth 'fighting for'.

2. Each time someone does you a favor this month make it a practice to look them in the eye and thank them.

3. Think of ways to repay those who have made sacrifices that have been beneficial to your lifestyle. How can you give more than you take? What legacy can you leave? What will your footprints be?

4. Make another pot of bush tea in a billy, or try brewing some Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet Holiday Tea.

This lovely quote, inscribed on a packet of Celestial Seasonings tea, was sent to me by Soul Food Patron, Winnie Cross.

“Let us toast twice. First, to the older generation: May your days come to be many, full of comfort and understanding. May they be spent knowing that those days past have held a completeness uncommon and unknown to many, and that every detail of your being continues in the lives of those who follow.

To the younger generation: May we accept these gifts, knowing that they are of this tradition, of this old-fashioned courage, of ethics, and that they can be carried along forever like rusting relics or they can be worn as wings. Let us wear them as wings.”

Somehow it seems appropriate, on this anniversary of the Eureka Stockade, to mull over a good brew of tea and toast the miners of 1854. Take the time to consider how we can carry on their tradition.

Associated Links

Life on the Goldfields