To be at the site of the Eureka stockade as dawn was breaking, was a powerful moment in visioning why people rebel, and the ongoing importance of Eureka to the Australian identity.
The people gathered were from all over Victoria, including a number of Ballarat locals. A banner was erected which said 'Reclaiming the Radical Spirit of the Eureka Rebellion' The monument was decorated with Southern Cross banners and lanterns - a very fitting and powerful commemoration by lantern designer Graeme Dunston.
We gathered in a cirle in front of the monument. Joe Toscano made a short introduction, after which we went around the circle with each person introducing themselves and perhaps explaining the meaning of Eureka to them. A common them was an identification with the fight against injustice and free speech, then and now. But all spoke with a depth of feeling and power which seemed to hang in the still air.
The sky was overcast so we could not see the Southern Cross in the skies, but Graeme Dunston's lanterns and banners was a more than adequate compensation.
Half way through going around the circle, the drone of bagpipes could be heard emanating from across the hill. This was the start of the Stockade Centre campfire event. We continued going around the circle. Just as we finished, the first breaking of the dawn occurred. 149 years ago this signaled the military attack on the stockade.
Some people milled around for a while - access to the Eureka Hall to have breakfast was at 6am. Several people walked across the hill to the Stockade Centre campfire event, before walking back to the hall.
Breakfast was a social occasion - the making and sharing of Tea and Coffee and sharing of food and conversation about the vigil that morning.
At 10am the main hall was converted to a temporary Radio recording studio broadcasting live to a Melbourne and Australian audience. About 18 people volunteered to speak about Eureka with Joe Toscano on his Anarchist World this Week radio program broadcast on Melbourne community radio 3CR and transmitted via the community radio satellite to community radio stations throughout Australia.
After a short break people formed up outside the hall and marched the 3km to Bakery Hill, the site of mass meetings in 1854. Bakery Hill today is a travesty. A McDonalds stands prominently near the site. There is a flag pole in the center of a very busy roundabout with a Eureka Flag flying. Very few people cross to the centre of the roundabout to inspect the plaque at the bottom of the flagpole, so our group attracted quite a bit of attention from passing motorists.
Several people spoke underneath the flag before the group marched off back to the Eureka Hall for lunch.
I have perhaps given a perfunctory description of the events of the day commemorating the Eureka Rebellion, but there was much feeling and passion about the history and its relevance for people in Australia today. Many of the people in attendance are activists themselves and draw inspiration from the courage and solidarity of the miners of Eureka in 1854.
Many of these people will return next year for the 150th anniversary celebrations. We will see in the coming year attempts to whitewash the Eureka story, to romanticise it and remove any radical connotations. The meaning of Eureka is in danger of being whitewashed by the politicians and Bureaucrats and sold back to us as a national myth. The local council sees the prospect of the tourist dollar that the Eureka Story could generate.
The local Liberal Candidate, Ms Matuschka said: "Before the Eureka Flag is flown at Parliament House in Canberra, we need to restore the integrity of the flag and what it stands for," (Ballarat Courier 30/11/03)
Mmmmm....okay, Carboni Raefaello was at the Eureka Stockade and here is what he said about the emblem of the Southern Cross - the Eureka Flag:
On 29th November 1854 at Bakery Hill Carboni mounted the stump beneath the Southern Cross and called upon all "irrespective of nationality, religion and colour" to salute the Southern Cross "as the refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on earth".
Pretty stiring and courageous words.
Source: Melbourne Indymedia
Outside the State Library an honour roll was unveiled to the 13 miners acquitted of high treason resulting from the Eureka Stockade Rebellion in 1854.
About 15 people gathered next to the statue of Redmond Barry in the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria to unveil an honour roll to the 13 miners acquitted of High Treason arising from the the Eureka Stockade Rebellion in 1854, and the military storming of the stockade in the early hours of December 3, 1854.
Barry was one of the judges involved in the Eureka Treason trials. While there is a statue to him, there is no equivalent memorial in Melbourne to the Ballarat Miners who succeeded in bringing about a democratic revolution in the Australian colonies.
Source: Melbourne Indymedia
Each year the Dawn Walk has a special guest who is honoured for their conspicuous and contemporary service in defence of Australian rights and liberties.
"This year Dawn Walkers will be honouring Dr Toscano for his conspicuous citizen service defending Medicare in the face of the ideological attack by the pro corporate Howard Government", said Dawn Walk Master Lantern maker, Graeme Dunstan. (See www.defendandextendmedicare.org)
Dr Toscano has put together a national network of doctors and health care consumers who are effectively advocating that health care is a right, not a charity or a luxury. Dr Toscano describes Medicare as "the most important social innovation since pensions".
But the defending Medicare is just the most recent example of a lifetime of community based, direct democracy activism by Dr Toscano.
Dr Toscano is passionate about reclaiming Australiašs radical traditions. He is an active member of the Anarchist Media Institute, a broadcaster on community radio 3CR and a researcher and writer of Australian history. (See www.takver.com/history/eureka.htm)
In particular he is passionate about reclaiming the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion and last Wednesday 3 December, thirty people, most driving from Melbourne, joined Dr Joe at the Eureka memorial at 4 am to commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Government attack on the diggers at the Eureka Stockade. This was twice the number of people attending the Ballarat City Councilšs official commemoration, the Dawn Campfire.
The 2003 Eureka Dawn Walk will proceed this year proudly and publicly as a public liability insurance free event.
Source: Melbourne Indymedia
EUREKA - Standing in a circle next to the monument at the Eureka Stockade site in Ballarat, we waited for the dawn to brush away the night. Men, women, young, old, took their turn describing how and what they felt. Each spoke, some from the heart, others from a historical perspective, while others rambled on about current issues. As one stopped, the other took up the chant. Locals as well as people who had travelled for hours unburdened their souls, each realising they were part of something much bigger than themselves. Words filled the warm night air, the birds initially one at a time eventually as a discordant whole welcomed the coming of the dawn. 'Values, courage, integrity, equality, solidarity, direct democracy direct action, death, massacre, solidarity, multiculturalism, indigenous presence, reclamation, southern cross were some of the words that punctuated the air. 149 years were compressed into the few hours before dawn broke.
NO GLOBALISATION WITHOUT DIRECT DEMOCRACY ANARCHIST MEDIA INSTITUTE
'WE SWEAR BY THE SOUTHERN CROSS TO STAND TRULY BY EACH OTHER AND FIGHT TO DEFEND OUR RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES' EUREKA REBELLION OATH 1854
Blood, bone, fire, smoke, burning flash, workers at either end of a bayonet, pain, noise, vomit, banshees, death, rode the dawn, escaping to another world with the first light. The light slowly banished the dark, intellectual and emotional spectres were replaced with a carpet of green grass. Eureka Hall beckons, the moments evaporated for another year, community breakfast, the Anarchist World This Week broadcasts without a hitch, the rest of Australia shares the experience through sound waves. March to Bakery Hill, we rest under the Southern Cross hoisted on a flagpole in the middle of a roundabout. 12,000 people at Bakery Hill in 1854 making decisions, electing delegates to carry out those decisions. Surrounded by the corporate logos of the 21st century, McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Flag Motor Inn about 30 of us and one dog reaffirm the Eureka oath 'We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties'.
Rights and liberties, foreign concepts in an era when the plastic fantastic is king. The cars that ate Paris, circles us. We wait, the moment lost in a torrent of urban noise. We march back to Eureka Hall for a communal lunch, hearts heavy with doubt, our bodies and minds exhilarated that we have reclaimed the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion and are using that spirit to understand the present and change the future.
FOR THE RECORD
I was surprised to read in an article by Katie Maherus in The Courier (3/12) that the Eureka Centre dawn celebrations were a first for Ballarat. On page 3 of The Courier, dated Wednesday the 4th of December 2002 an article titled 'Torchlight gathering of the site' describes how 50 people attend a 4:00am gathering at the Eureka Stockade site on the 3rd of December 2002. This event was organised by the Anarchist Media Institute to mark the 148th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion.
I was disappointed that although the Courier covered the Eureka Centre organised dawn celebrations, to mark the 149th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion, no mention was made of the very well attended celebrations that were held next to the Eureka monument at the Stockade site at 4:00am on December the third this year. This event was organised by the Anarchist Media Institute to allow participants the opportunity to reclaim the radical spirit of the Eureka Rebellion.
Many Australians are concerned that the important values that defined the Eureka rebellion are being lost in the rush to commercialise the event. Celebrations that do not acknowledge the values that underpinned the Eureka movement are similar to Christmas celebrations that do not acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ as the basis of Christmas.
The Eureka oath 'we swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties' encapsulates the essence of Eureka. Direct democracy, direct action, solidarity, multiculturalism, resistance to a tyrannical State and a sense of place are values that are as relevant today as they were 149 years ago. Let's hope that the celebrations that are planned to mark the 150th anniversary of the rebellion, celebrations that will draw Australians attention to Ballarat, will focus on the values that defined the rebellion, not just the commercial possibilities the celebrations present.
THE OLD BALLARAT CEMETERY
On Sunday the 5th December while waiting to attend the official Eureka lunch at the Old Colonists Club in Ballarat as guests of the organiser of the Eureka Down Walk Greame Dunstan, Ellen and I decided to visit the old Ballarat cemetery to pay our respects to those who had died in the Eureka stockade. Not everybody who died on the 3rd December 1854 is buried at Ballarat cemetery. Some died of their wounds later and were buried in different locations. Others were buried secretly.
The cemetery has an information room at the entrance. Interestingly one pictorial representation has a heading that appeared in one of the local newspapers a day or two after the rebellion labelling the stockaders as 'ANARCHISTS AND RUFFIANS'. Walking down from the entrance past the rotunda, you soon come across the miners plot approximately 7 metres by 8 metres. A simple column rises from the centre of the burial plot bearing the names and country of origin of the 22 miners who were thrown into a common grave on the same day they were killed by the State. A group of miners marching three abreast and carrying 3 coffins walked past the redcoats and Joes (police) and buried another 3 miners in the same common grave the day after the killings.
Many of the 22 miners were born in Ireland, a few came from Prussia and the emerging German States, 2 hailed from Canada. Teddy Thonen, a German Jew had the dubious distinction of being the first miner murdered in the assault. William Quinlan the only native Australian was born in Goulburn New South Wales. I wonder if a monument has been erected in Goulburn in his honour? The column bearing the names was erected on the 22nd March 1856. It clearly states that the men who are buried in this common pit were killed as a result of 'resisting the unconstitutional proceedings of the Victorian Government'. The gravesite has a forlorn neglected appearance it's surrounded by an iron picket fence that was erected some time later.
The soldiers burial ground, a more roomy affair, can be found about 50 metres away. A tree grows next to a substantial marble monument that was built, we are told in 1879, at the request of the citizens of Ballarat. The burial ground about 17 metres by 14 metres is breached by a break in the fence. The word DUTY in capital letters is inscribed on 3 sides of the monument. The names of the 6 soldiers who died, some resting in what seem to be above ground concrete coffins are listed on the front of the monument. The inscription states that the soldiers died in a battle against people who believed the Government had acted unconstitutionally. A further inscription below the first implies that the miners had died for nothing, as the demands they fought for, were granted constitutionally by the Victorian Government not long after the revolt.
Even in death 149 years later, two versions of the same event lay less than 50 metres apart. The cemetery had an air of desolation about it. Although it was less than 48 hours after the 149th anniversary of the Eureka battle, not one bunch of flowers graced the last resting place of both the miners and soldiers, to mark the 149th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion.
Sources: Anarchist Age Weekly Review No. 575 1st December 7th December 2003
Anarchist Age Weekly Review No. 576 8th December 14th December 2003