May 28, 2014

Eureka 160

I raise a matter for the attention of the Premier.

I ask him to take action to provide State Government funding to support this year’s 160th
anniversary of the Eureka Uprising.

As Members will know, the discovery of gold in Victorian in 1851 led to an influx of people from around the world looking to make their fortune and escaping the rigid strictures of their old lives.

The influx and actions of gold seekers drove the transformation from a largely anglo-saxon convict colony to a prosperous multicultural country of diverse and progressive views where the miners  shared their experiences to advocate for a world very different from the one they had left where only the wealthy could vote and own property.

We know that the colonial administration was ill-prepared for the influx of gold seekers and applied a licence fee for gold mining which was seen as unreasonable as it was higher than that paid by the pastoralists and had to be paid regardless of the miner earning any income.

In Ballarat, there was a range of democratic actions taken to attempt to resolve the tensions.  The Ballarat Reform league was formed and charter drawn up noting that:

“It is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in the making of laws he is called upon to obey. Taxation without representation is tyranny.”

Public meetings were held.  A petition was sent to Governor Hotham and a delegation to the Commissioner Rede.  All to no avail.

The battle at the Eureka Stockade early on the morning of Dec 3, 1854 was a pivotal moment in Australian history. 

Over 30 people were killed that morning, including at least one woman.

As Mark Twain later said of the Eureka Stockade, “The finest thing in Australia’s history. ……it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for principle, a stand against injustice and
oppression….”

This December will be the 160th anniversary of the Eureka Uprising.

Members may remember that the Bracks Government provided substantial funding for the 150th anniversary of Eureka.

As a result a large range of events were able to be held in Ballarat and elsewhere to commemorate Eureka and to help Australians reflect on the significance of the events
surrounding the uprising.

As the Premier will know, since the 150th anniversary, the Federal and State Governments
and the City of Ballarat have funded the creation of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E) on the site of the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat.  M.A.D.E is bringing the importance of that story and its link to modern day democracy, to new audiences.

This year’s 160th anniversary is an opportunity to emphasise and enhance the importance of Eureka and the reputation of M.A.D.E, Ballarat and regional Victoria.

I understand that the Board of MADE supported by the City of Ballarat have asked the State to contribute funding in support of this year’s commemoration.

The Eureka story is growing in recognition in the Australian population.  Peter Fitzsimmons very successful book Eureka is being made into a television series.  Historian Clare Wright has just one the Stella Prize for her book The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka about the women on the Ballarat goldfields at that time.

With funding to support the events planned for this year’s 160th anniversary of Eureka, Ballarat and the broader Victorian community can benefit as we again highlight Eureka and the importance of justice and democracy in our society.