The 3rd December 1854
At around 3:30am on Sunday 3rd December at least 290 well armed troops attacked a stockade at the Eureka gold lead which had been erected the day before by diggers from the Ballarat goldfields. Shots were fired and a bloody battle ensued. When the sun rose over the stockade over thirty diggers, soldiers and bystanders were dead. It had all been over in a matter of minutes though it had been the culmination of years of constant discontent on the Victorian goldfields over licence fees, the method of licence inspection and the corruptness of some officials. It had all been over in a matter of minutes but the repercussions of the event led to dramatic social and political change, much more significant than is acknowledged in 'official history' of the event.
Over 1,000 diggers had participated in constructing the stockade on the previous day, but by midnight only about 120 diggers remained at the barricade.
The men who had shed their blood that day had congregated with their comrades the day before at Bakery Hill under the Eureka Flag to swear THE OATH OF THE EUREKA FLAG:
"We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties."
The Eureka Rebellion has come to be regarded as a `milestone in Australian democracy' and the Eureka flag is closely associated with this struggle for democracy in Australia.
The 3rd December 2002
In the chilly night air at 4:00am that day, the 149th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade, a group of some 30 Australians gathered at the site of the Stockade to share their thoughts about the event and to feel some empathy with the men who had gathered and made their stand that day 149 years before. We strung our banner between two trees and stood in a circle as the Southern Cross twinkled clear in the crisp night sky above us. We allowed our imaginations to embrace the harsh struggle of the lives of these men, the desperation of their fight. We considered the words and meaning of their oath; without reference to God or country these simple words expressed only their solidarity and their willingness to fight for their rights and liberties.
The Radical Spirit
We decided that the words of this oath, the Oath of the Eureka Flag, expressed the spirit of these men and the true spirit of this nation. For us, it was symbolic that the historic site of bakery hill, not far away, where these men had congregated and sworn to this oath and where they had previously held community meetings on a regular basis, was now host to a McDonalds store adjacent to a traffic roundabout at the centre of which only a flagpole and a small plaque commemorated the importance of this sacred site of our Australian history.
Today, growing unemployment, declining real wages and the ever-increasing demands for employee skills, the hum-drum grind of paying the mortgage and coveting the next vehicle upgrade has rendered Australians apathetic to the political processes that determine their lives. The cancer of inevitibility of our political system, saddled up as a two-horse race has rendered us feeling powerless and inclined to indifference. Universities, once the seeding ground for activism and social change, have become quiet places where competition for better grades and a climate of single-minded focus keeps young people disinclined to participate in student political processes. We have lost the radical spirit.
That day, we marched to Bakery Hill with our banner and we took the oath of the Eureka Flag (though it was not flying from the flagpole on that anniversary day) and we marched back to the stockade. In a later meeting, we agreed we would work together to reclaim for Australia that Radical Spirit of the Eureka Rebellion.
If you would like to know more about this group, our aims and how you can work with us, please write to:
P.O. Box 5035, Alphington 3078, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Or alternatively, send an email to Joe Toscano.
Other Eureka Stockade Sites
- Ausflag - Eureka Flag
- Ballarat Eureka
- Eureka Flag
- Eureka website
- The Eureka Flag - The Eureka Stockade