Monday, December 03, 2007

Eureka Day, Australia

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

1854 Australia: The Battle of Eureka Stockade, an uprising of Victorian Gold Rush gold miners against the State of Victoria; six troopers and 22 miners died in the civil revolt by gold miners against the officials supervising the gold-mining regions of Ballarat. Although the revolt failed, it has endured in the collective social consciousness of Australia. As Mark Twain wrote, "It was the Barons and John over again ... it was Concord and Lexington".

Eureka has been variously described as the birthplace of Australia's democracy, republicanism and multiculturalism. It is often regarded as being an event of equal significance in Australian history as the storming of the Bastille was to French history, the Easter Uprising to the Irish, or the Boston Tea Party or Battle of the Alamo to the history of the USA. Its multicultural heroes include an Italian writer (Raffaello Carboni; read his book), a freed African-American slave (John Joseph, who was the first to be charged with sedition), a former German soldier and sundry American democrats, Canadians, Irish rebels and British Chartists. The first incident was the arbitrary arrest of a physically disabled, non-English speaking Armenian, wrongfully charged with assaulting an officer.

The miners held a series of huge peaceful meetings demanding fairer treatment (their main complaint was about miners' taxes), but following the murder of a miner, those calls for non-violence were pushed aside. A 27-year-old Irishman, Peter Lalor (read his letter), who'd never before addressed a public meeting, was thrust into leadership on November 30; his first word: "Liberty". Lalor went on to be a Member of Parliament, although not a particularly radical one. Thirteen miners were tried for treason early in 1855, but all were rapidly acquitted to great public acclaim ...

The Eureka flag
At right is shown the Eureka flag under which the protesters fought and died, the tattered original of which is still in existence. Showing the constellation of the Southern Cross, a stellar feature that dominates the night sky in Australia, it is favoured by many Australians as a replacement for the national flag which still shows Britain's Union Jack even after more than a century of independence. However, many conservative elements oppose the Eureka flag, for obvious reasons, and there will likely be no change in the foreseeable future. One hopes that the sesquicentenary of 2004 further raised consciousness about this anachronism ...

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