Eureka Day

December 3 is Eureka Day.

A day when we should all stop for a moment and celebrate a sacrifice that is little known, and even less understood.

A day when many will fly the Eureka flag, as a sign of remembrance and respect. And as a sign to all levels of government in our country that they should not go too far in removing some pretty basic rights.

And a day when The City Of Tea Tree Gully WILL NOT be flying the Eureka flag, because the councillors voted down a proposal to do so. Council voted the flying down for two reasons:

- It does not meet the state government protocols for flag-flying; and

- The flying of the flag “may divide the community” because it has been used (hijacked) by a few extremist groups.

So, councillors of Tea Tree Gully, perhaps you need reminding of a little history.

Start here: The Eureka Centre in Ballarat has an excellent history, and I quote:

The uprising by the miners and the Government’s attack on their Stockade in December 1854 was Australia’s only armed civil uprising. It was a battle over democracy and fairness and contributed to the spirit of freedom that Australians have come to regard as their birthright.

That spirit of freedom has been eroded, gradually, by a series of governments – with the passing of anti-terror laws, and other laws allowing imprisonment without charge, and trial without access to the evidence.

Our governments, and the elected members need to remember who put them where they are, and what it took to get the society we have. Democracy in Australia was not something that came automatically from Britian. It was built with difficulty, blood, sweat and tears. An important part of the formation of our democratic government was the Ballarat miners rebellion of 1854.

For various reasons, the miners felt that they were being taxed and treated unjustly. They created the Ballarat Reform League, with (amongst other things) the following political aims:

(1) A full and fair representation. [i.e. in parliament]
(2) Manhood suffrage. [in other words - everyone can vote]
(3) No property qualification of Members for the Legislative Council.
(4) Payment of Members.
(5) Short duration of parliament.

The charter of the Ballarat Reform League begins:

That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws that he is called on to obey – that taxation without representation is tyranny.

The members of the League burned their miners licenses in an act of defiance of the Government.

At the time, a license had to be provided on demand, something that was not always possible because they were often kept in the miners’ tent, away from the wet and dirty conditions. However any miner found not carrying the license was immediately arrested and fined.

The burning of the miners licenses led, in turn, to the massacre of miners at the Eureka Stockade in a surprise night raid by the Victoria police.

The resulting rampage by the police saw innocent bystanders shot, the wounded being bayoneted, and much needless destruction of miners property.

About 22 miners were either killed immediately or died soon after, and a further 12 were wounded and survived. Casualties on the Government side were 4 killed and 12 wounded.

This is one of only two acts of defiance by Australian people against their government, and is the incident that had the largest impact on shaping our democracy.

Whilst the rebellion was over in 15 minutes, it led DIRECTLY to fundamental changes in Government in the colony of Victoria, and had a significant influence on all Australian Governments.

Some of the things we take for granted came about from, or were hastened by, the efforts of the Ballarat Reform League, and their leader Peter Lalor:

. short terms of parliament
. nobody needs to carry or produce identification papers or other government documentation to police on demand (generally you have 24 hours)
. true representative democracy
. the right to trial, to see and hear your accusers
. limits on powers of police
. fairness in dealing with governments and employers

Peter Lalor, leader of the Ballarat Reform League later became Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Council [Upper House of Parliament].

Today, the Eureka flag has no official status but is still used, over 150 years later, as a symbol of rebellion against Government excesses in Australia. And this week, Ballarat celebrates its position in Australia’s history, on the 155th Anniversary of the uprising.

Shame on you Tea Tree Gully Councillors. Know your country. Know your history.

——————-

Full text of the charter of the Ballarat Reform League.

6 Comments

Thanks! I recall being taught this stuff at school but never really recongised the significance of it..

Its a shame that the flag has been associated with ne’erdowells in recent times.

What was the other armed uprising?

Duncan.

Comment by Duncan Margetts | December 1st, 2009 8:23 am | Permalink

So TTG have gone from banning boobies as art to also banning the original symbol of Aussie rebellion?

What’s next – forcing Humphrey B Bear to wear trousers?

Comment by Kath Lockett | December 1st, 2009 9:06 am | Permalink

The other major rebellion was the shearers strike of 1891.

Leading a strike… leading to a 3 year jail term for the union leaders.

Comment by Wally | December 1st, 2009 9:02 am | Permalink

It’s such a shame that the flag has been hijacked by ratbag nationalists though. I cringe when I see it these days. Those boguns have no idea what it stands for.

Comment by Baino | December 2nd, 2009 4:45 am | Permalink

I noticed that the Eureka flag was flying from the top of Parliament House on December 3. So much for the protocol argument. Such a shame that TTG Council didn’t do it as they did in the city and I believe at Campbelltown Council. One could argue that the Union Jack is a symbol of our violent colonialist and convict history but no council will refuse to fly that all year round.

Comment by John | December 9th, 2009 11:13 am | Permalink

John – I could not agree more!

Comment by Wally | December 9th, 2009 5:52 pm | Permalink

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