The Eureka Dawn walk leading light has stirred up some controversy this year. The reason? It is Terry Hicks, the father of David Hicks. David Hicks has spent the last three years in Guantanamo Bay kept as a prisoner of the USA.
About 1,000 people participated in the Dawn Walk in Ballarat to commemorate the attack on the Eureka Stockade in 1854, and listened to Terry Hicks compare the detention of his son as a suspected terrorist to the injustices faced by the Eureka miners. “One-hundred-and-fifty years ago there was a lot of injustices,” he said. “Today, particularly on my side, and what I’m doing, we still have injustices.”
While there was a vocal interjection during his talk, there were also people calling out “let him speak”.
Organiser of the Dawn Walk, Graeme Dunstan said that each year someone who has been conspicuous and courageous in the defence of our liberties in present times, is honoured as Leading Light. “This year we are grateful to have Terry Hicks, father of Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoner and torture victim, David Hicks, as our Leading Light.”
“Terry Hick’s tenacious campaign to demand justice for his son is an inspiring Australian story of great love and great courage. In the face of the US tyranny, Terry stands tall and speaks truly for liberty and justice. Eureka spirit! In the name of the father, in the name of the son, he is an inspiration to us all. Father of the century!” said Dunstan.
The walk started out at the mining exchange near the Government Camp after 3.30am. Through stops where an oration of the story is read out, the story of the Eureka Stockade is told. The candles provide a moving atmosphere to meditate on the story of Eureka and what it means.
When the Walkers arrive at the Eureka Memorial at dawn they listen to the Leading Light, in this case Terry Hicks deliver a short speech “to bring the Eureka story to here and now relevance.” Afterwards, breakfast is provided to all.
Several prominent people including Premier Jeff Bracks (Baton Charge Bracks) and Alexander Downer condemned the choice of Terry Hicks. Jeff Bracks went on to show his ignorance of the event by criticising it for following the march route of the soldiers when they launched their pre dawn attack in 1854. While some descendents of the Eureka miners were critical of the appointment of Terry Hicks, many were supportive of Hicks selection.
The controversy highlights that Eureka has always been a political event, and remains so today. The digger and soldier monuments in the cemetary highlight the early political controversy. And Howard’s refusal to admit the Eureka Flag as a flag of national importance is just as ideologically political. The southern cross still stirs people. Symbols can be powerful.
There are those who would like the commemoration of Eureka to be ‘non-political’, when in reality they mean non-controversial. But to eliminate the controversy means to destroy the motivation of the original rebellion: solidarity in defending our our rights and liberties against injustice.