Stations of the Southern Cross – 156th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion
On one level the Eureka stockade was a dispute over mining licences at Ballarat gold diggings in 1854. However when we look at the people that made up the rebellion and the allegiance they swore to each other, we can see that it was more than that. A comrade has pointed out that the intial dispute was over the refusal of landowners and commercial interests to pay any tax which the governor then had to get entirely from the miners.
Was Eureka about one class rebelling against the laws of the ruling elite in Victoria or was it part of a movement for a better world, a stuggle for democratic rights?
The rebels certainly took on the state and were overwhelmed by brute force, many losing their lives as a result. The survivors defended charges of treason and were acquitted by a jury of their peers as told in “The Eureka Stockade” by Raffaello Carboni.
Since 2002 a unique celebration has been organised to commemorate this event to defend the original ideals that the Eureka rebels, women and men, stood for. In 2010 we were a group of stalwarts led along the streets of Ballarat by Joe Toscano who ironically referred to our homage as the “Stations of the Southern Cross”.
Meanwhile Ballarat went on about its business only stopping for a moment as we marched by.
Many of the left dismiss the history of Eureka 1954 as a small business revolt against mining licences but if you read Dorothy Wickham’s history “Women of the gold diggings Ballarat 1854 you get the sense of the type of people involved and the courage they showed. Dorothy Wickham’s talk on the women of Eureka on the night of the 156th anniversary gave names and character to the people who struggled in the harsh economic and political climate of the day.
Thanks to Joe Toscano and his wife Ellen for taking us on this tour and thanks to all the other participants in revealing the nature of Eureka to a bunch of Queenslanders come down from Brisbane with a friend to accept a Eureka Australia Day medal on behalf of his dad, Bob Walker.
In 2010 there were eight ‘Stations of the Southern Cross’. Times on the YouTube video Stations of the Southern Cross are shown in brackets.
- Eureka Stockade – dawn commemoration of diggers who defended their rights (oo:00)
- Eureka Stockade commemoration march from the Stockade to Bakery Hill (1:20)
- Bakery Hill – giving out the Eureka Australia Day medals (4:17) the swearing of the Eureka oath with West papuam leader leader Jacob Prai
- Ballarat Town Hall – Eureka flag raising ceremony (24:40) and swearing allegiance (27:50)
- March to Ballarat Cemetery
- Ballarat Cemetery (28:39) – speeches by the graveside of the diggers including a speech of solidarity by the leader of the Free Papua movement Jacob Prai.
Later there was discussion of the soldiers role by their grave (53:00)
- Talk given by Dr Dorothy Wickham on the ‘Women of Eureka’
- Visit to the Ballarat Regional Art gallery which houses paintings and the Eureka flag. A note about the little drummer boy (1:01:47).
Before I went to Ballarat a poet in Brisbane said to me that people talk of the 22 people who died at Eureka but no one knows their names. Well, Ross, here is one version on the memorial standing on the hill above the Eureka Stockade. This list is incomplete and inaccurate. See “Deaths at Eureka” by Dorothy Wickham for a more accurate list.
Women of the Diggings Ballarat 1854 by Dorothy Wickham. Published by BHS Publishing Ballarat Victoria.
The Eureka Stockade by Rafaello Carboni