Sunday, 21 November 2010

Austraila's first and only Republic by Bob Kavanagh (H.E. Assignment)

In 1851 gold was discovered in the area of Mount Bonan Yowing in Victoria, Australia. The discovery led to the founding of the town of Ballarat, whose population grew rapidly from 1000 a month after the discovery to over 20,000 two years later.

The authorities in Melbourne imposed a license on miners, who were constantly raided by police. Those without a license were brought to court, where they were fined and jailed. By 1854 miners became more and more disgruntled with the authorities, and their meeting and pleadings went unheeded.

Eventually they planned opposition to the police raids and elected one Peter Lalor to organise the miners. Peter lalor was the brother of James Fintan Lalor, the renowned Irish socialist reformer from County Laois.

Expecting more police raids, they began erecting barricades on Bakery Hill, Ballarat. One Mary McCloud made a blue flag from her wedding dress, on which she stitched five white stars in the shape of the stars of the Southern Cross.

Mary McCloud was to be married to Patrick Shanahan, a miner and one of the leaders chosen by Peter Lalor. The wedding was to have taken place on Sunday the 3rd of December 1854, so barricades were erected on Saturday 2nd and the flag was raised. The miners then declared the 'Republic of the Southern Cross.'

On Sunday 3rd December 1854 over 300 soldiers and police arrived at the barricades where a number of miners and police were shot and killed. Amongst the dead was Patrick Shanahan.

The miners eventually surrendered to the soldiers rather than the police whose brutality and random slaughter the miners feared. The miners stand and the battle went down in history as the battle of the Eureka Stockade.

The Eureka stockade story is principally a social history, because it led to better conditions and more rights for the miners. It was also the first blow struck for more democracy in British ruled Australia. Many of the leaders of the rebellion were Irish who had been deported of left Ireland to escape hunger and deprivation at home, and many of whom wished to escape from British domination.

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