EUREKA STOCKADE

In the early 1850's, people from all over the world came to the Victorian goldfields in the hope of striking it rich.

Ballarat became the new frontier, where tens of thousands of diggers worked their claims. All age groups, cultural backgrounds and some 20 nationalities were represented, turning the diggings into Australia's first multicultural community. 

The miners worked very hard, often with no reward, but were forced to pay a mining licence fee which was collected by government representatives who were often brutal.

Things reached a boiling point with the murder of a young Scottish digger, named James Scobie, in a brawl outside Bentley's Eureka Hotel. The killer was set free leading to a violent protest in which the pub was burnt to the ground.

On November 11, 1854, the diggers formed the Ballarat Reform League protesting government policy. An agreement spelling out their political demands, called for the abolition of the dreaded licences and the right to vote in making the laws.

The diggers fury was further ignited when three men were arrested and sentenced to prison for burning down Bentley's Eureka Hotel. Conflict was sure to happen.

On November 29, 12,000 people were present when the Southern Cross flag, was unfurled for the first time, becoming the symbol of their struggle. In an atmosphere of defiance and triumph, the diggers burned their licences and fired shots into the air. The following day, under the leadership of a young Irishman, Peter Lalor, a smaller but determined group swore the Eureka Oath;

"We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties".

Taking up arms, they marched to their camp, erecting barricades to form what would become the Eureka Stockade.

Sensing the air of rebellion, authorities ordered a crackdown, calling in reinforcements from Melbourne to help put down an increasingly angry mob. After a two day stand-off, heavily armed troopers and police attacked the camp before dawn on Sunday, December 3, catching the diggers unprepared.

Some 120 men were inside the stockade … outnumbered and outgunned, they were quickly overwhelmed. The fighting lasted less than a hour and over 30 people were killed.

But this short-lived revolution became a lasting symbol of the struggle against injustice and oppression and a defining moment in the creation of the Australian spirit.

The Eureka Rebellion demonstrated the refusal of citizens to be dominated by unfair government and laws.

It was an important step in the establishment of the democratic principle that each person has a say in how they are governed, along with the Australian notion of "a fair go for all".

In 2004 Australia commemorates and celebrates the 150th anniversary of Eureka and its legacy the Australian spirit.

The Eureka Stockade centre is located in East Ballarat on what is considered to be the site of one of the most significant events in the evolution of Australian democracy - the Eureka Rebellion.

Teachers may like to use these sites to support this area of learning.

Eureka Stockade

Eureka Flag


Stage 3 unit
non-Aboriginal Sites