12 September 2012 - The Eureka Flag

Quote of the day:

"Our greatest battles are that with our own minds."

Jameson Frank

Original flag


G'day, guys,

Today I'm proud to mention some facts about a flag that most Australians consider is the symbol of democracy, mateship, the fight against injustice, nationalism, rebellion and defiance. It's called the Eureka Flag.

Australia is probably one of the few countries in the world that has not endured a civil war. However, the first sign of rebellion happened in 1854 on Bakery Hill, Ballarat. It became known as the Eureka Stockade - a milestone event in Australian history. Valiant and rebellious men came together to fight against injustice and the Eureka Stockade has always been considered to have been a key event in the development of Australian Democracy.

Australia was first settled on 26th January 1788, eighteen years after it had been discovered. Gold was discovered in the 1850's, encouraging thousands of prospectors from around the world to find their fortune. However, trouble began for the gold diggers of Ballarat in southern Australia when Governor Hotham came to power in June 1854.

Hotham wanted to strictly enforce the licensing laws and set up licensing checks twice a week. This led to increasing opposition of the licenses from diggers. The policing system at the time was also corrupt and, when a digger was murdered in October of 1854, his friends believed they knew who the culprit was and burned down their business. These men were arrested, but when the murderers went to trial, they were released because one was a friend of the magistrate. This was the event that sparked rebellion in the hearts of the men.

On the 11th of November, men rallied together in protest of the licenses, fair rights to vote and for the release of the three men unfairly put in jail. This protest led to the Ballarat Reform League being formed. On the 29th and 30th of November, this league decided to have a public display of license burning. At the burnings, the Southern Cross flag (the Eureka flag) was proudly displayed. Followers of Peter Lalor, the leader of the rebellion, were all sworn in by him before the Eureka Stockade:

'It is my duty now to swear you in and to take with you the oath to be faithful to the Southern Cross. Hear me with attention. The man who, after this solemn oath, does not stand by our Standard is a coward in heart. I order all persons who do not intend to take the oath to leave at once.'

 'We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.'

 For the next 2 days, preparations were made for a stockade - the Eureka Stockade. They made a fortress of timber slabs with pikes surrounding it. It enclosed about an acre of the goldfields and was very crudely made. Firearms were also gathered, making the rebellion Australia’s only armed rebellion in history.

Early on the 3rd of December, armed authorities launched an attack on the Eureka Stockade, as they knew the diggers were dwindling in number and were vulnerable. The attack was over in 20 minutes. The diggers were vastly outnumbered by soldiers, and 22 of them were killed. Five soldiers were also killed in the process. The Eureka Stockade was a lost battle.

However, the actions of the miners was not for nothing. The Eureka Stockade garnered public sympathy, and led to the abolition of unjustly expensive mining licenses. Not only, it made entry into politics fair to ‘men without property’ with eight diggers entering the Legislative Council in 1855.  It also caused the introduction of the secret ballot even though only 1 in 8 diggers ever bothered to vote. Victor Daley, an Irish nationalist wrote a ballad on the Eureka Stockade; “Ere the year was over, Freedom rolled in like a flood. They gave us all we asked for- when we asked for it in blood.” The Eureka flag is now a potent symbol for Australian freedom, justice and democracy.

The Eureka Stockade now stands in Australian folklore as the day of the ‘Good Fight’.  Mark Twain said of the Eureka Stockade, “It was a revolution, small in size; but great politically; it was a struggle for principle, a stand against injustice and oppression.”

Flag of the Southern Cross


Sons of Australia, be loyal and true to her-

Fling out the flag of the Southern Cross

Sing a loud song to be joyous and new to her-

Fling out the flag of the Southern Cross!

Stained with the blood of the diggers who died by it,

Fling out the flag to the front, and abide by it-

Fling out the flag of the Southern Cross.

Published in Truth, 9 August 1891

Clancy's comment: the gold rush has always been my favourite period of  Australian history. Not sure why. I've even written a manuscript about it - 'Irish Gold'.  The Eureka Flag has been used in many demonstrations in Australia, especially by the Builders Labourer's Federation (BLF) in the 60's, and during the anti-Vietnam War marches - the biggest anti-Vietnam War protest marches in the world. All of those protests happened in Victoria, the same State that hosted the Eureka Stockade in 1854.

In my considerable travels around the world, I have always carried a Eureka flag. Not only, in 1973, risking our jobs, I marched around the White House with a son of a highly respected senior Australian judge, protesting with Americans about President Richard Millhouse Nixon's lies about the Vietnam War. I also flew to Manila and walked with thousands of people in the Philippines, protesting against the corruption of the Marcos regime - the 'People Power' marches.  Guess what I carried on both occasions? Yep, a Eureka flag.

I'm Clancy Tucker.

No comments:

Post a Comment