One of the defining moments in Australia’s journey to becoming a democracy was the Eureka Stockade, where 500 miners took up arms in opposition to a draconian mining tax, demanding it be scrapped and the miners be given the right to vote. In the resulting conflict, an estimated 27 people lost their lives – 22 miners, five troops – and over 100 were arrested.
Their incarceration, however, was short lived. Public support for the miners was overwhelming. Only 13 were put on trail and all were acquitted.
While blood was shed and lives lost on both sides, it was not in vain. Soon after, the Victorian government passed the Electoral Act 1856, mandating full white male suffrage for elections in the lower house. The mining tax was also scrapped.
It was a victory for freedom, democracy and the rights and liberties of the individual and remains the only instance in Australia’s history where an armed uprising resulted in a change to an unfair law. Sadly, however, this legacy has been hijacked by the union movement, who have used the Eureka flag as a symbol of the collective against business.
This was never the purpose of the Eureka Stockade. Miners were enterprising, entrepreneurial individuals working hard to get ahead. They relied on their own intuition and skills and stood up for themselves when taxes became exorbitant and they were denied their rights. The Eureka flag represents freedom and liberty, not the collective.
Use today to educate the population of the true meaning behind the Eureka flag and seize the symbol back from the left. Run a social media campaign, invite a speaker to give a lecture on the importance of the rebellion and set up a stall to hand out eureka flags to students.