Overview of Eureka Rebellion

 

Today is 4th December and is the anniversary of an event that laid the foundation for the type of society Australia would become through the last half of the nineteenth century and beyond. It was an event that changed the trajectory of Australia from a class based mirror image of Europe to the more egalitarian nation we would become.

This event is of course the Eureka Rebellion, which occurred on Sunday 4th December 1854. It was the culmination of a series of incidents which led ordinary men to take up arms against the Redcoats of the British Army and a detachment of the goldfields police. But how did it come to this and does this brief battle one hundred and sixty three years ago still have relevance in the Australia of today?

When asked what the Eureka Rebellion was all about, most people would recite what was taught to them at school, i.e. it was about the mining licence. But we all pay for licences of various kinds, be it a driver’s licence, gun licence or a licence to conduct certain trades. We all pay the fee, we may grumble out it, but we don’t build a rough fence on top of a hill and fight the authorities who come to remove us. So there must have been more to it.

This wasn’t about a licence fee, this was about fair and equitable treatment of people regardless of their background. The diggers who swarmed to the goldfields from 1852 onwards came from all walks of life. Some were tradesmen, solicitors, doctors, station hands, store keepers and even members of the colony’s fledgling police force. But regardless of their background, on the gold fields they were all equal and a man’s worth was decided by how hard he worked, not by the accident of his birth or the size of his bank account.

However there was one group in what would soon be the colony of Victoria that didn’t hold to this sense of social equality – the squatters. These were men who had taken up vast tracts of land in the decade or so before gold was discovered and had amassed quite a nice pile of money, thank you very much. But with the discovery of gold, many of the workers required to run their stations had taken off for the lure of making their own fortune. Something had to be done.

It just so happened that many of these wealthy squatters also happened to be on the colony’s administrative council and got to make the rules. They come up with a scheme that they felt would make life on the diggings difficult and thereby ‘encourage’ the workers to return to their rightful place – back under the heels of these very men. The scheme involved the mining licence.

Every person who made a living on the goldfields was required to carry licence and they needed to secure this before they could even begin to start work. They had to renew this licence every month, regardless of whether or not they had actually found any gold. Many couldn’t afford this and so they just didn’t pay it. The authorities soon realised that this was happening, so they instituted a program where the police would go out into the fields and inspect the digger’s licences. If the digger was unable to produce one, they’d be arrested and held until such time as someone paid the fine as well as the licence fee. These inspections became known as licence hunts and the enthusiasm with which the police undertook these hunts created a feeling of resentment among the diggers.

The tension continued to bubble along for a nearly two years, with regular petitions and protests falling on deaf ears in Melbourne. Not only were the miners concerns apparently ignored, there were murmurings of an increase in the fee, and not only were police numbers increased, soldiers were also sent to the area to maintain order. But still there was no feeling of rebellion in the air. It took a murder and a denial of justice to push the diggers to rebellion.

A young Scottish miner named James Scobie was killed on the night of 7 October 1854. It was widely believed that the proprietor of the Eureka Hotel, James Bentley, his wife and members of staff had beaten the young man to death after he demanded entry to the hotel after hours. Despite the testimony of some witnesses, the coronial enquiry found the Bentley’s had no case to answer. The miners felt differently and demanded a full magisterial trial. The man who conducted the trail was Magistrate Dewes and it was understood that he was actually a business partner with Bentley and had invested some substantial monies in the Eureka Hotel. The trial quickly descended into farce, with the Magistrate directly questioning witness himself, and when they adjourned to lunch Dewes headed to his chamber. Bentley quickly followed and rather than being tossed out of the chambers he remained for a full fifteen minutes, after which he re-entered the court looking happy and relaxed.

Needless to say he was found not guilty.

The diggers were now incensed. It appeared that even the basic right to justice for the murder of one of their own was beyond them. A meeting was held to discuss courses of action and after the meeting, acting on some unspoken will, the mob headed to the hotel. Commissioner Rede attempted to placate the masses but narrowly avoided being hit by a flying egg, and soon the Hotel was being torn apart and eventually burnt to the ground. James Bentley was last seen riding for his life on the fastest track out of town, leaving his pregnant wife behind. Not exactly the stuff of heroes.

As a result of this riot three token arrests were made and those three men were sent to Melbourne for trial, and were handed custodial sentences. So just to recap – the accused murderer goes free while three frustrated men venting their anger get locked up. The tension rises.

Into this tense environment an incident involving Johannes Gregorious raises the pressure even further. As the assistant to the local clergyman, Father Smyth, Gregorious isn’t required to have a licence. But that didn’t stop the police from arresting him for failure to produce one. During the course of the arrest the young man is beaten and trampled by the officer’s horse. No action is taken against this officer.

A couple of days later a meeting was held to discuss a plan to apply pressure to Governor Hotham to release their comrades currently serving time for the Eureka Hotel incident. At that meeting Timothy Hayes convinced many of the diggers to burn their licenses. Rather than taking a hands-off approach to avoid escalating an already volcanic situation, Commissioner Rede ordered his police to arrest anyone not carrying a licence. Some push and shove ensued, with the pushing and shoving getting harder and more serious until the police were being pelted with rocks, sticks and anything else the diggers could get their hands on. The police returned in kind, brandishing bayonets and threatening to shoot. Commissioner Rede read the Riot Act, thereby legalising any police officer who fires their weapon to control the crowd.

Shots are fired. No one is killed. But a couple of diggers are injured.

It becomes obvious that the diggers are not safe and that their man threat comes from those who are supposed to provide the very safety the diggers are denied. They form into a large group, march to the top of a hill on the Eureka diggings and unfurl a flag. IN the absence of any other leader, Peter Lalor takes the stage and delivers his now famous speech. Underneath the flag of the Southern Cross the swear allegiance to each other and vow to defend each other from the authorities.

They decide to build a stockade – a place where any digger fearing for their safety can seek refuge. They form themselves into companies and begin a very rough form of military training. They are armed with whatever they bought with them and whatever they could commandeer.

The Authorities couldn’t take this challenge lying down and were compelled to snuff out any revolutionary feelings before they could take hold. But how to do this? The stockade had thousands of armed men inside. Any attack would be disastrous for the few hundred soldiers and police. But what if there weren’t thousands of them? What if there were only a couple of hundred, like there probably would be on a Sunday when the more devout among them would be preparing for church? The 4th of December 1854 was a Sunday, and that’s when the Government forces struck.

For such a major event in Australian history, the actual battle was over quite quickly. As the soldiers advanced, a lone digger stepped forward, dropped to his knee and fired the first shot, killing a young Redcoat. Nothing could stop it now. Those diggers who carried firearms began shooting and for a moment the advancing line seemed to falter, but Captain John Thomas rallied his men and they surged forward. They reached the ramshackle defences and were soon over and into the Stockade.

The diggers, with only a couple of days training and equipped with rough pikes and other makeshift weapons, met the disciplined and well trained troops coming at them with bayonets fixed. The result was inevitable. The troops quickly established their superiority and when Peter Lalor was shot, a wound which would later require the amputation of his arm, the defenders broke and the main part of the battle was over.

From that first shot to the taking of the stockade the battle lasted a little over twelve minutes. But they were twelve minutes which changed Australia forever. Throughout the Colony of Victoria there had been some lukewarm support for the diggers rights, but once the word got out that the authorities had killed 22 diggers their support for the miners turned to outrage against the authorities. Many of those 22 dead miners were killed after the main fight had been concluded, with some unarmed men, who weren’t even involved, being gunned down by angry troops.

This feeling among the wider community began to grow and eventually led to laws which gave each citizen (or at least every white male) in the colony equal rights to land ownership and voting. It was the genesis of the egalitarian society Australia eventually became, instead of the colonial version of the European aristocracy which the ruling class were striving for.

Is this still relevant today? Half the point of history is to take lessons from the past to view where we are headed in the future. It’s not too difficult to draw comparisons between Ballart of 1854 and Australia today. Back then it was the land holders, the squatters, who had the ear of Governor of the Colony. Today big business, mining giants and corporations are pressuring Governments throughout the country to implement policies which favour them at the expense of the less financial citizens. We hear it every day “the rich are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer.”

The average Australian is having less impact on the decision making of the country. The diggers were denied access to land ownership. Yes, today we all have the right to own our own little piece of land, but that doesn’t mean that we can own our little piece of land. So many working Australians are unable to afford a home. Why? Because the wealthy have worked the laws to allow them to take up all the best land for their own benefit, forcing the majority of people out of the market.

We have a situation where big mining companies can come onto a farmer’s land and set up a coal seam gas well and the farmer gets very little say. The mining company can afford to spend a few hundred thousand to press their claim in court, but the farmer doesn’t have two cents to rub together and so the company wins.

We’re nowhere near the conditions of 1854. But if things continue as they are, then there’s a very real chance that the oppression and the lack of access to proper justice for the average person will be a thing of the past. We know that the last Australian Revolution involved angry workers taking up arms on a small hill outside of Ballarat. Although I don’t think the next one will involve a shooting match, but unless things take a detour and balance is reintroduced into our political system then another revolution is inevitable.

 

Book Review – Flying Into the Mouth of Hell

 

Flying Into the Mouth of Hell

Laurie Woods DFC.

Published by Boolarong Press

Flying Into the Mouth of Hell Laurie Woods DFC

 

I will admit that although I have a fascination with Australian military history the main focus of that fascination has always laid with the Army, and predominately the Australian Army in World War 1. If you were to ask me a question about the Australian involvement in Bomber Command during World War 2 I couldn’t tell you much. That was until I read ‘Flying Into the Mouth of Hell’ and I now have a better understanding of that part of our history.

I was walking through my local shopping centre when I saw an elderly gentleman in a crisp blue suit and a row of medal across his chest and some books on the table in front of him. Maybe it was the fact that I, too, have sat outside that very bookshop meeting people and signing books, or maybe it was the fact that I always enjoy speaking to our returned servicemen and women, but I had to stop and say G’day.

The elderly gentleman in question was Mr Laurie Woods DFC, a bomb aimer in an Avro Lancaster Bomber as part of the Australian 460 Squadron of Bomber Command in 1944. He had four books on the table in front of him, but ‘Flying Into the Mouth of Hell’ is his personal story and so it’s the one I chose.

One negative before I get too far into it, and it really is an insignificant negative in the scheme of things. The editing and proof-reading really could have been a bit more thorough, and I say this as an author whose own work requires the finest-toothed comb in existence to be put through his own work. But as you’re following Mr Woods on a bombing mission and the tension grows as the target approaches, coming across a randomly placed coma or full stop in the middle of a sentence can be a little distracting. But as I say, it is an insignificant thing overall.

The book follows the story of the author from the moment he decides he’s going to join the Air Force, through his initial training in Australia, America and England and then onto his operational flights over war-torn Europe. It is told in the style which you would expect if you’ve ever had the privilege of speaking with these veterans, it’s a non-sensational, honest, ‘this is what we did and it was nothing special’ kind of fashion. There are no pretentions towards heroism, just ordinary men doing the job which was required of them. Mr Woods doesn’t shy away from expressing the fear which all the aircrew experience, nor the relief when finally back on friendly soil.

This book provides an insight into the day to day lives of these aircrew from the moment they return from a mission to when they load up to head out, often on the same day, to go and do it all again. The author also describes the ways in which he attempted to find some peace in the brief periods of rest he was allowed while on operational duties, and the compassionate English women who helped a young Australian to forget the war for a short while.

Mr Woods records each of the thirty two operational flights he participated in. The more ‘uneventful’ missions are covered in a couple of paragraphs while the larger raids are covered in full detail and cover areas such as the amount of flak they were flying through, communications between pilot and crew, near misses and witnessing yet another Lancaster plummeting to the Earth in flames. On most occasions he even records the coordinates which they flew and the bombload which they carried for each raid. Where available he has included the toll each raid took on the ground in number of building destroyed and lives lost.

And to ensure the full story of a bomb crew member’s experience is recorded he has also included extracts from reports from other crews, including the story of one Australian who bailed out over enemy territory and, for a while, joined the German soldiers who were searching for him before ducking down a side street, unnoticed and eventually making contact with the Dutch Resistance.

He describes the matter-of-fact way in which they accepted the regular loss of friends as each mission took more and more of them away. But he also shows his humanity with some quick references to a Commanders efforts to remove the term ‘Lacking Moral Fibre’ from personnel reports of crew members who could no longer summon the nerve to climb into their aircraft and head over occupied Europe. Apparently if you were in your early 20’s, had already taken part in fifteen to twenty to twenty five missions and seen countless friends and acquaintances blown out of the sky and you could no longer take the strain, you lacked moral fibre. Unbelievable.

Mr Wood’s operational flying ended with a memorable final flight, reminiscent of the American Flying Fortress ‘The Memphis Belle’ and the battering they took in their final mission. But unlike the Americans, we never made a movie about Mr Wood’s experience on his final flight. To find out what happened, and how he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for “an act or acts of valour and courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”, you’ll have to buy the book and I highly recommend that you do so. Although it’s not likely to win a Pulitzer Prize for flowing, flowery prose, it will give you an insight into the lives of a group of men to who we all owe a great deal of gratitude.

Available at Amazon, Angus and Robinson, Booktopia.com.au, Dymocks and Fishpond.com.au.

Why Write Historical Fiction

Well work is well and truly under way on my next book. Not to give much away but it will be another historical fiction novel, this time centering around a handful of battles which involved Australians in the Boer War, or more correctly the Anglo-Boer War.

The hardest part about historical fiction is getting the history right. In my opinion if the details are not accurate for the time, then all you’ve written is a novel set in a previous time and there is nothing historical about that. But that need for accuracy comes as at a price – first you have to find the detail.

Of course in many historical events the written record is vast and an author can just pick and choose the interesting bits and pieces according to how it all fits with the story they’re attempting to tell. But these events have more than likely been picked over many times before and their stories told in all sorts of different way. So because of this, and through some sort of masochistic desire to make life as hard as possible for myself, I like to seek out the lesser known stories, and unfortunately the records on these events can be hard to track down.

With my main area of interest being Australian military history, particularly our earlier involvement in foreign wars, there is an added complication. Up until mid 1918 Australian troops were considered to be a part of the British Army. This was the case also during the Boer War which erupted in 1899, two years before there was even a Federated Australia. The various colonies sent their own contingents over to South Africa and were absorbed into the British Army, fortunately keeping their own unit identity or tracking their exploits could prove near impossible. The problem with this arrangement is that the English chroniclers tended to cover all actions as being conducted by ‘British’ forces, when in fact they may have been undertaken by Australians, Canadians or Rhodesians. And so locating the right details can sometimes be frustrating.

So why do it? Why not just write fiction with no real base in fact?

Simply the truth is always more interesting than just straight fiction. Stories based on true events have more impact because the ‘that’s a bit far fetched’ factor that can creep into fiction is not there. It may sound far fetched, but it happened, and history is full of these moments. And it’s only through the research, the pouring through pages and pages of seemingly insignificant detail, that the true story emerges. There have been a few occasions when the direction I’ve had in mind for a particular character or story line has been changed by some small detail I’ve stumbled across and felt that I couldn’t possibly leave out.

And sometimes the best thing about writing historical fiction is the random events that the research can take you to yourself. A perfect example of that happened just this weekend. I had recently joined the Victoria Barracks Military History Society and asked them if they had any information relating to Queensland Units in the Boer War. Before I knew it I was contacted by Miles Farmer, former Commanding Officer of the 2/14 Queensland Mounted Infantry Regiment and a man with a deep passion for the Regiment, which had it’s genesis in the Qld Shearer’s Strike and served throughout the Boer War, and is still alive today in the form of 2/14 Lighthorse Regiment QMI. I got to spend a wonderful couple of hours with Miles and his wife Mavis, and he had prepared so much information for me to take away, from maps to photocopies of pages from the Official History and down to his own photos of visits to the area I’m particularly interested in for my next book. An absolute privilege for a bloke like me.

So in a nutshell that’s why I chose to write  historical fiction. The researching takes me through the lives of real people from history doing things which they probably didn’t think were particularly remarkable, but which I find fascinating. I learn so much about our history as well, which keeps driving me to find out even more. And best of all it allows me to meet some amazing people as I go.

Miles Farmer, a true gentleman and wealth of knowledge on Aussies in the Boer War
Miles Farmer, a true gentleman with a wealth of knowledge on Aussies in the Boer War

Lead By Example My Compatriots

Well here we are, the campaigning is over, votes are cast and mostly counted and we’re all still up in the air as to who will be the Chief Ring Master down in the Great Canberra Circus. So what do we do while we wait for the announcement of the final outcome? Some of us choose to wait patiently, basically happy with the fact that it looks like neither of the Clown Troupes will be able to form a majority government. But it seems that not everyone will take that approach, and as a result I’ve had one of those light bulb moments. Let me explain.

Sitting back and watching the end of the election coverage on Saturday eve, it became apparent that the result was going to be close. Neither party would be able to walk away from this without some soul searching. Or so I thought. Shorten claims some kind of victory in that they pulled back a lot of seats from the LNP, while Turnbull jumps up and basically insinuates that the only reason they got such a poor vote was because we, the great un-washed, fell for Labor’s scare campaign of lies etc, etc, etc.

As I sat watching Turnbull, the lead ball of disillusion hit ground zero somewhere around the pit of my stomach. Despite the poor percentage of votes achieved, neither of them managed to take it as a message from the voters of Australia. They still don’t seem to realise that a very large majority of Australians don’t like the way politics is done by our current crop of professional politicians. They don’t respect the voice or intelligence of the average Australian. Why?

Well that leads us to my light bulb moment. I often find that the best way to get a feel for the thoughts of the average person on the street is to read through the online opinion pieces where people basically get to state their point of view, safe behind the shield of on-line anonymity. The ABC’s Drum is one such forum which can be quite enlightening, but also to some degree are the more public forums like Facebook. Sure if you use your real name on Facebook people will know your opinion but if they disagree the worst they’ll do is ‘un-friend’ you, so what’s to lose. And it’s in these forums that I have discovered why the politicians have no respect for the opinions of Australians. It’s because we, the citizens of this great country, seem to have no respect for the opinion of the other citizens of this great country, if that opinion differs in any way to theirs.

Have a look through any forum where people are putting up their thoughts and you’ll see what I’m on about. Apparently if person X doesn’t like a particular candidate but person Y does, then based on nothing more than the notion that person X’s opinion must be right because person X believes it, person Y must be a moron, uneducated, an imbecile. There appears that, in the deepest parts of people’s psyche, there is no room for differing opinions.

A quick glance will show an absolute smorgasbord of invective against those who have voted for Hanson, Hinch, Lambie or any of the more notable candidates as well as the usual back and forth between rusted on Liberal and Labor voters. This invective seems to ignore one fundamental principle – these people were elected by a majority vote. I think they call that democracy don’t they? And isn’t that the whole point?

You may or may not support the policies of any of the candidates and as your opinion is based upon your own life experience that is a valid opinion. But that doesn’t make you the sole proprietor of the right opinion. Let’s take one of the more divisive issues going around that the moment, Muslim immigration, as an example.

Spending your life in your nice comfortable inner city environment, occasionally coming into contact with a down-to-earth, compassionate and tolerant Muslims will entitle you to your view that there is no conceivable risk to allowing an influx of Islamic immigration. And that’s fine, that’s your opinion based upon your life experience.

But what if that’s not your life experience? What if, as a young 21-22 year old you joined the Army (no this is not me) and were sent overseas to Islamic countries where you potentially witness the stoning deaths of ‘dishonourable’ women in the name of Allah, or at least the end result of that stoning, or you’ve seen the long line of executed young men who just happened to worship a different form of Islam. Of course you’re going to have a different opinion on the question of Islamic immigration. And that opinion is just as valid as the person who’s not been exposed to that.

Now if a candidate comes along who is advocating against open borders and a flood of people from a particular religious ideology, then obviously this young soldier is going to give that person their vote. And rightly so, based on their own lived experience. Could you really expect them to vote differently despite what they’ve witnessed just because the media is telling them there is nothing to worry about?

If the majority feel the same way and that particular candidate is voted in, then that is democracy at work. You may not agree with the candidate or the opinion of those who voted for them, but rather than resorting to the usual calls of ‘racism’ or ‘xenophobic Australian’ maybe a bit of respect for those people making that decision would not be out of order. Certainly shouting insults will achieve nothing, and attempting to see an issue from another’s point of view might actually broaden your own horizons.

For either side to resort to insulting each other, basically on nothing more than different lived experiences, shows a complete lack of respect for the other person’s opinion. And if we don’t respect the opinion of our fellow citizens, how can we demand that our politicians show respect to our opinions?

There can be no more beneficial outcome than to have as many disparate voices in the Senate as possible so that the opinions of ALL Australians get heard and then the final decision is made based upon the majority opinion. So instead of trotting out the same old bovine excrement that the politicians fling around when their opposite number has a varied opinion, how about we show them the standard we expect of them by living up to that standard ourselves, and show each other a bit of respect even though we freely disagree. Can’t be that hard.

Bloody Good Aussie Book – The Sundowners

The Sundowners

Ok, so time for a bit of a book review. I realise this is where most people go “boooring” and flick back to looking at videos of cats. Well don’t. Instead sit back, shut up and get a bit of bloody culture into ya! Wow, that escalated quickly.

Anyway, The Sundowners by Jon Cleary was first released in 1952. That’s right, way back before your interwebs and iFaces and ‘electronic’ books. Seriously what the hell is an electronic book, or ‘ebook’? It’s not a book, it’s a TV with words on it. But I digress. The Sundowners is the story of the Carmody family, Paddy, Ida and their fourteen year old son Sean. It’s set in country Australia between the wars and follows the family, and a tag-along by the name of Venneker, as they travel through the bush, droving sheep, in the shearing sheds, in the pubs and in the horse racing game.

Jon Cleary manages to bring the full beauty of the bush into the tale with vivid descriptions of the landscape, the events and the wonderous vernacular of the old Australia. Funny how you don’t hear too many people being referred to as an “Old Coot” these days. So much better than many of the Americanisms that have found their way into our way of speech since those days, especially the types that refer to performing carnal deeds upon someone’s mother.

The term ‘Sundowners’ refers to the itinerant travelers of the outback, in that where ever they are at sun down, that’s their home for the night. Paddy Carmody is one such man, never wanting to be tied down to one place, and so Ida and Sean are constantly on the move with him, despite wanting nothing more than to settle into a place of their own. Regardless of their desire, Ida and Sean stay loyal to Paddy as he leads them ever onwards.

Long before the women’s liberation movement kicked on, Cleary manages to set Ida, the main female character, as a strong, independent-thinking woman who won’t meekly submit to what the men tell her. This is best illustrated when the Carmody’s join a shearing team, and rather than be left behind Ida insists that she joins the team as the cook. Despite the protests of some of the men Ida wins and on a couple of occasions even gives the Boss an earful. Even Paddy is regularly put in his place by his strong, but ever-loving wife. To steal a phrase from today ‘you go, girlfriend’!

Then there’s Sean, a fourteen year old lad on the brink of manhood. He worships his father, but as the story goes on he comes into his own and forms his own opinions which are not always in line with Paddy’s. And as happens with all teenage boys, Sean becomes aware of the lure of the female of the species and his awkwardness around the more ‘worldly’ Marge Bateman will probably bring back uncomfortable memories for a lot of blokes. But Marge’s ‘worldliness’ only comes from books and it is soon shown that she is just as awkward as Sean. Nevertheless Sean’s journey as he crosses the threshold from boy to man is brilliantly conveyed, although that crossing does not involve anything untoward with Marge, this was written in the 50’s after all.

But the supporting characters are the ones who make the story come to life. From the loud and happy Mrs Firth, proprietor of the Cawndilla pub, to the shearers, to the lonely young wife of the station owner, Cleary captures many of the personalities of ‘typical Australians’ from that period. The two old blokes at the Bulinga pub, one commentating on a fight between Paddy and Venneker while the other constantly questions where the beer is, while complaining about his short-sightedness is wonderful. And they show up again at the end of the story, kind of like a couple of drunken book ends. Beautiful.

The main thing that makes this book such a good read is the humour, the sort of self-effacing humour you’d expect from Australia as it was (before everyone got so bloody oversensitive and started getting offended by everything). I won’t give it all way, but just as an example in one scene there is a blue (a fight to the un-Aussie lot out there) between two teams of shearers. Afterwards the team is discussing the event and one bloke points out that his mate kept getting knocked down by one of the others. Rather than take umbridge at the implication that he couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag he just states “yeah, I was up and down like dunny seat”. Enough said I reckon.

Anyway, it may be an old story but it still has an appeal, especially to those of us who still hold out hope that the best of the Old Australia will somehow mix with the best of the New Australia. And as evidence that it is a great story, even the Seppos (Americans) decided to turn into into a movie with Robert Mitchum (apparently he was a bit of a hottie back then), which is something I’m pretty sure didn’t happen with too many Aussie stories back then.

It’s a great read about great people in a great country. Get onto it.

Why Eureka?

For me the interest in the events in Ballarat between 1852 and 1854 is due primarily to the fact that this is where we start to see, for the first time, a divergence from the traditional European attitudes towards class and society and the beginning of a different way of thinking.

On the goldfields it didn’t matter what a person’s background was, all that mattered was how they conducted themselves among their fellows and that everyone was given a fair and even chance, the beginnings of the Australian notion of a fair go for all. This feeling eventually ran so deep that the diggers were willing to fight and to die for it.

It also marks the beginnings of a sense of being something other than displaced Europeans on the other side of their world. They still saw themselves as English, Irish, Scottish or other European races, but underlying it all they also started feeling a common bond, separate to their ethnicity. They may not have identified as being ‘Australians’ at that stage, but it was the beginning of a feeling of identity which over the following decades would eventually lead to Federation and the creation of the Australian nation. Eureka was the first indication of what Australians would eventually become.