Page 138: a bit more of ballarat
  The Story of the eureka stockade  

When gold was found in any part of Australia, miners came from all over the country; this happened in Ballarat in the 1850s. As many as twelve thousand rough and ready miners poured into town. 'Authority' in the town would have still have been representatives of the British system where 'class' was all important. You can imagine how the gentry would have looked with distaste upon this rabble invasion. These itinerant miners might have had the numbers but the rich and powerful were backed by the police and the army.

To both deter the miners and to make a lot of money for the town, a very expensive Mining Licence was introduced and the requirement for the miners to possess one was enforced. Ballarat traders quickly followed the lead of their 'betters' and the price of mining implements rose sharply. Newly arrived miners had not yet begun digging and this was very tough on them but they were regarded as a rabble to be exploited; they had no rights. Worse, they had no vote, so politicians ignored their protests and complaints. They had few friends.

The police regularly entered the mining areas to check the mining licences. Any miner found without one was arrested and would face gaol or a heavy fine. The miners became increasingly angry and began to organise themselves. Who could blame them?

On 6 October 1854, things took a turn for the worse. Scottish miner James Scobie was murdered at the Eureka Hotel. James Bentley, the hotel proprietor, was the prime suspect and when the police had still taken no action after ten days, the miners took the law into their own hands. Between 5,000 and 10,000 gathered at the hotel to protest. Bentley and his wife, Catherine, ran for their lives as the hotel was burnt down.

The police arrested a number of miners and charged them with burning the hotel. Throughout the following weeks, the miners' leaders sought to calm the situation, negotiating with both the Gold Commissioner and Governor of Victoria. Matters relating to James Bentley and the murder of James Scobie needed resolving as well as the burning of the hotel. They also wanted the hated mining licence abolishing and democratic representation for the miners.

Gold Commissioner Rede believed it his right to exert authority over the "rabble." Rather than hear their grievances, he increased the police presence in the gold fields and summoned reinforcements from Melbourne. On 28 November 1854 those reinforcements, marching from Melbourne, were attacked by a contingent of miners who had been dispatched for that purpose. A number were injured and a drummer boy was allegedly killed. This was later proved to be completely untrue but the rumour of his death served to exacerbate the hatred between the two sides. A memorial to the drummer boy was erected in the cemetery and remained there for some time. He actually died some six years later.

It was not just the cost of the licence fee that enraged the miners but the corruption of the Ballarat officials, gross miscarriages of justice and the lack of sympathy for the extraordinary dangers and financial risks taken by the miners. They were not totally without sympathisers, however. On 28th October 1854 the Ballarat Times stated:

It is not fines, imprisonments, taxation and bayonets that is required to keep a people tranquil and content. It is an attention to their wants and their just rights alone that will make the miners content.

As officialdom continued to ignore the legitimate complaints of the miners the situation deteriorated. On Saturday, 11 November 1854, a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 miners gathered at Bakery Hill, directly opposite the government encampment. The rebel Eureka Flag bearing nothing but the Southern Cross, was flown for the first time. As a gesture of defiance, it deliberately excluded the British Union Flag, which was included in the official flag of Australia.

  The Eureka Flag, also known as the Southern Cross.  

The Bakery Hill meeting passed a resolution "that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to obey", and "that taxation without representation is tyranny". The meeting also resolved to secede from the United Kingdom if the situation did not improve. An oath of allegiance was sworn: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties."


At a follow up meeting two weeks later, the miners' leaders were forced to report that they had failed to achieve any concession from the authorities. The 12,000 miners resolved on open resistance to the authorities and to burn the hated licences. The Gold Commissioner responded by ordering police to conduct a licence search the very next day. Eight defaulters were arrested. So incensed were the miners that the army had to be summoned to rescue the arresting police officers from the angry mob.

The miners now realised that no change was going to be achieved through dialogue and changed their leadership to reflect their more militant attitude. In the rising tide of anger and resentment, Peter Lalor, a more militant leader, was elected. A military structure was developed amongst the miners. Brigades were formed, and captains were appointed. Licences were burned, the rebel Eureka Flag was unfurled, and an oath of allegiance was sworn. The miners who encamped themselves around the flag vowed to defend themselves from licence hunts and harassment by the authorities.

At three o'clock in the morning of 3 December 1854, with no warning, government troops stormed the miners' flimsy stockade at Eureka Lead, Ballarat. Their attack was timed to take place before the return of the miners that had been sent to attack the Melbourne reinforcements. It was a Sunday and nobody expected an attack; most miners were probably still recovering from Saturday night carousing. Only a few lookouts were posted.

The stockade itself was a ramshackle affair hastily constructed from timber and overturned carts. The structure was never meant to be a military stockade or fortress. It was nothing more than an enclosure to keep the miners together and never erected with an eye to military defence. In a fiery battle that lasted only twenty minutes, more than thirty men were killed. Most of the dead were miners.

The miners' leaders were arrested, charged with high treason and sent to Melbourne for trial. However, mass public support for the captured 'rebels' in Melbourne resulted in all the miners' leaders being acquitted. This was a body blow for Gold Commissioner Robert Rede and the politicians who had believed they could walk all over the miners with impunity.

Within a year the miners won the right to vote and the hated gold licence was abolished. Justice finally triumphed, an instance of a victory won by a battle lost . The Battle of the Eureka Stockade remains the only armed rebellion in the history of Australia.

  The Eureka Stockade Centre built close to the site of the battle. A strange building with a scarcity of vertical lines. When we visited the place it was closed for improvements and had been for some time. There was no evidence of work underway and graffiti had been sprayed around the entrance. A notice said it would not reopen for a year. The leaning flagpole can be seen for miles.  
  Talking of flagpoles . . .  

At Ballarat we found ourselves parked next to a large caravan with a beautiful flagpole. (Our little flag flew from a long, thin length of doweling bought from a hardware shop.) We asked our neighbour where they bought such a magnificent pole and they gave us the web site address. It was priced at $49 but they had bought it, on special, for $39.

  We don't have any trouble finding our caravan in a crowded park.  

We looked up the store and discovered that the pole was out of stock, so we resorted to eBay. There we found a number of identical poles, all brand new, up for auction. The auction period for one of the poles was due to expire in around two hours and the highest bid was $20. I upped the price by $1 and the top bid immediately rose by another dollar. I upped it again and once more the highest bid rose by a dollar above mine. I had a think and decided I was prepared to pay $40 so I bid that. If someone upped the bid they could have it. How this works I don't understand but the pole now had a highest bid of $26.51 on it and a promised maximum bid of $40. So any new bid must exceed $40. The site said I was the highest bidder and when the auction period expired I got the flagpole, flag, rope etc. for just $26.51. Don't you love a bargain?

  The Arch of Victory and Avenue of Honour  
  Ballarat honours, not just the soldiers who fell in WW I, but every man and woman who served in that conflict. The Avenue of Honour is lined with elm trees along both sides of both carriageways, almost four thousand in total. Every tree is dedicated to the memory of a Ballarat citizen who 'fought' in the Great War, and each tree has an embossed name plate adjacent to it bearing the name of the person honoured. I use quotes around 'fought' as I don't know whether nurses are included. They certainly should be.  

The Arch of Victory marks the gateway to the Avenue of Honour. Curious how the end of WW I is sometimes given as 1919.
The Oxford and Macquarie dictionaries are clear: WW I ended on 11th hour of the 11th day of the eleventh month of 1918.

  One carriageway of Ballarat's twenty two kilometre long Avenue of Honour, the world's longest.
Four thousand elm trees, each with a name plate, line the Avenue.
  Carbon Tax  

As I understand it, a carbon tax makes no sense. Let's take the coal fired power stations. They generate a lot of carbon dioxide so they will pay a lot of tax to the government. The power companies will raise the cost of electricity because they are a business and have to make a profit. You and I will will be no worse off as the government is to compensate us.

So, the power generators pay out more tax and recoup it from us. We pay more for electicity but recoup it from the government. The government pays out compensation to us but recoups it from the power stations. The money has just gone around in a circle, so why bother in the first place? And, of course, the money has to be recorded and accounted for at every stage so there'll be a million accountants, bookkeepers and tax workers employed, each of whom will be drawing a wage. Hmmm, perhaps I'm just dumb.

When we left Ballarat we headed off the Horsham.