The short bright history of Australia is laced with a rich history of battling pioneers and villains. One of the most prominent events of all, was a fiery confrontation of the miners of Ballarat who stood against the tyranny of an uncaring politician, and his troopers. The Eureka Stockade was an act of courage that helped forge the rules that govern our sun-baked land. The Gold Era was a turbulent time in our history and the changes rapidly occurring in an emerging nation were never more prominent than on the Goldfields themselves.
The government was ill-prepared for the influx of people from across the globe, peaking in 1858 at around 150,000 people on the Goldfields. When Victoria's first Governor, Sir Charles Joseph Latrobe introduced the prospectors license fee, the reaction from the miners was of discord. As time went on a series of events snowballed to culminate in the confrontation. The miners license soon went from 1 pound, to 3 pounds, then 4 and finally 8 in 1854. The fact it had to be paid before mining put many at disadvantage. Worse still was if they did not find anything, as many did not. Further still - miners were not allowed to vote unless they had land, so they could not voice or oppose their concerns.
The original Southern Cross flag signifies our nation's foundation
Governor Charles Hotham took the reigns after La Trobe resigned and he was responsible for the major hikes. Although he was well received on his visits to the Goldfields, afterwards he organised increasingly regular license hunts, culminating on a weekly basis to increase revenue. The miners were outraged and a murder of a Scotsman James Scobie by a James Bentley - who eluded punishment further outraged the mining community because the man was friend of the local magistrate.
After a succession of meetings lead to the formation of the Ballarat Reform League, Peter Lalor came to lead the resistance of tyranny. Eventually the Hotel belonging to the James Bentley was burnt down because of the injustice, and troops had been organised to quell the uprising at Ballarat. The miners swore under the Eureka Flag which was situated at the Eureka lead, to defend their rights to the end. They built a crude log fortification with pikes and wagons, and weapons were brought in too. The troopers were ordered to take the stockade at dawn, December 3rd 1854. 22 miners and 5 troopers died during the Eureka confrontation. Peter Lalor was injured and later his left arm was amputated.
Following the Eureka Stockade the Governement made reforms, the captured rebels were released and the miners demands met. It was the moment that democracy came to be in Australia. Eventually Peter Lalor was elected as Speaker of the House in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria. The flag was torn down by the victors and made souvenir and eventually resurfaced, and proved to be authentic.
The Eureka Centre is a fascinating place with great displays of artifacts and information. If you wish to have a comprehensive picture of Australia's history, it is the place to find the facts. Opening times are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For contact information see the Eureka Centre's website. It is located close to the original site of the rebellion and many fine buildings still remain from the Gold Era.
The Eureka Centre houses Saltbush Kitchen, which has a great outlook over the Eureka Memorial Park gardens and lake. Take a chequered picnic rug or beanbag and relax in the garden. The menu includes a range of foods that are a pleasant surprise - being native Australian foods. They cater for specific dietary requirements and offers a selection of locally supplied delights, hot and cold foods, fine coffee and tea blends.
A modern museum and channel for Australian history
The kids can play in the Eureka themed played ground while you enjoy the view and fine food. Opening times are Monday to Friday; 10:30 a.m. – 3.30 p.m. and weekends; 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. See their Facebook page for pictures of their fine food, and menu items and see their website. Don't forget to check the M.A.D.E. website for current exhibitions and events in the what's on page. The premiere of 'German Teddy' by George Dreyfus is currently playing-to book call; 1800 287 113. The 19th Century bling exhibition displays jewellery styles of the Goldfields era and Perter Laylor exhibition is all about hero of the Eureka Stockade. See the above links for more.
There is a giftshop with books, gifts and a wide range of general paraphernalia and is worth a look during your visit. The general enquiries line is ; 1800 287 113 and the email address; firstname.lastname@example.org. Ballarat has a host of attractions and seeing the many historic buildlings is a definitive step back in time. For accommodation see the tourist information centre website, and being a sizeable city all services are available. Plan you visit soon.
Where:Ballarat is about 115 kilometres from Melbourne along the Western Highway.
Cost:Entry for adults is $12.00, children $8.00 - under 5 years of age are free, students 15 to 18 $8.00 with student I.D., concession $8.00, family pass $35.00, Ballarat locals free with proof of address. Art Gallery of Ballarat members are admitted free