Riot or Revolution looks at the real causes of Eureka and asks what are its meanings and messages for us today. Most of us are familiar with the solemn oath sworn by 500 armed diggers and their leader, Peter Lalor, as they unfurled the rebel flag at Bakery Hill – "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties". These defiant words, uttered just days before the battle, still have a chilling resonance 150 years later.
Only once in our history have Australians stood under opposing flags and faced each other on a field of battle. The time was 1854, and the place was the Ballarat goldfields in the new colony of Victoria. Over the last 150 years, the story of the Eureka Stockade has become one of Australia’s most important legends. Was it just a riot … or a revolution? Some say Eureka was the birthplace of Australian democracy – certainly it was a defining moment in our history.
Perhaps it was a battle between rationalism and romanticism, constitutional reform versus revolution. While debate about Eureka will go on, most would agree about one thing - that Eureka defined how we would resolve our differences, and in that sense, what sort of society we would become.
Mar 17, 2008, 22:46:50
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