Peter McGregor and Doreen Burrow from New South Wales were among seven Australians honoured under the Eureka Australia Day awards announced at Bakery Hill in Ballarat on December 3, 2007, the 153rd anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion.
One hundred and fifty three years ago, in 1854, a rebellion took place on the Ballarat Goldfields for democratic rights based upon the principles of Direct Democracy, Direct Action, Solidarity and Internationalism. The Diggers took up arms and built a crude stockade which resulted in troopers and police storming the crude miners’ stockade at 4am on Sunday December 3. There was a brief fight for about 15 minutes and then a massacre for the following two hours which resulted in the deaths of 30 diggers and several police. Over a hundred diggers were rounded up, of which 13 were tried for treason and subsequently all acquitted of all charges brought against them.
Except for the 150th anniversary in 2004, there have been no official events organised in recent years on the anniversary date – December 3, although the Eureka Stockade Centre allows free entry for this day.
Since 2002 the Anarchist Media Institute has organised a day of commemorative and reflective activities which includes a 4am commemoration at the Eureka Monument in Eureka Park, a march to Bakery Hill, the traditional meeting place of the diggers, where Eureka Australia Medals are awarded to people nominated as working in the spirit of the Eureka Oath, a march to the old Ballarat cemetery to pay respects to the diggers and soldiers who lost their lives.
The day started at 4am when banners were erected around the Eureka Monument and people started arriving for a Eureka Commemoration circle. Twenty five people attended. The overnight rain lessened and then stopped. Joe Toscano introduced the circle with a brief description of the Eureka rebellion, its principles of Dirct Democracy, Direct Action, Solidarity and Internationalism. Every person had an opportunity to explain the importance and meaning of Eureka to them.
Following the commemoration at the monument the Eureka Memorial Hall was opened to participants to have a self-catered breakfast, or wander around Eureka Park, Lake Penhalluriack and the Eureka Stockade Centre.
People gathered again at 10am for the march to Bakery Hill. The Builders Labourers Federation placed a green ban on this site in the 1970s to stop McDonalds building directly on the site of Bakery Hill. Preservation of this heritage site occured only due to the significant action of workers and their union.
The spirit of Eureka is encapsulated in the Eureka oath taken by 1,500 miners on the 29th of November 1854 on Bakery Hill in Ballarat, with the youngest present reading the Eureka Oath for all to swear: – “We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties”. In keeping with the spirit of this oath the 2007 Eureka Australia Medals (EAM) were awarded to:
- Doreen BURROW – Wollongong, NSW, (Radical Activist – over 50 years) involved in the peace movement and community campaigns for much of her 82 years in the Wollongong area of NSW. (See a 1968 ASIO photo of Doreen Burrow in the National Archives)
- Jean ELY & Ray NILSEN – Melb, VIC, (Public Education Activists – over 40 years)(Absent from Bakery Hill Ceremony) Dr. Jean Ely and Ray Nilsen have campaigned for public education as members of the Defence of Government Schools movement (DoGS) and are regular presenters on 3CR’s Public Education program. Jean Ely is the author of Reality and Rhetoric: An Alternative History of Australian Education.
- Stuart HIGHWAY – Darwin, NT (Community Radical Activist – over 20 years) Human rights and social justice campaigner with the Network Against Prohibition in Darwin, formerly a voluntary English tutor in East Timor, active on the East Timor and Aceh human rights issues. (Stuart’s Blog)
- Dave KERIN – Melb, VIC (Workplace & Community Radical Activist – over 30 years) involved in, and initiator of many union, community, peace and social justice campaigns including the Earthworker Collective and most recently Union Solidarity.
- PETER McGREGOR – Newcastle, NSW (Community & Education Radical Activist – over 40 years) Peter McGregor is a retired academic, anti-apartheid and anti-war activist from Newcastle. He was a convener of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Australia along with Meredith Burgmann. Most recently he attempted a citizens arrest of the former attorney General Phillip Ruddock for crimes against humanity.
- Alan PARKER – Sorrento, VIC, (Environmental Activist – nearly 60 years) Alan Parker has been a lifelong advocate for cycling, sustainable transport, town planning and a sustainable energy policy for over 30 years. He was involved in the Friends Of the Earth Rides against Uranium in the 1970s and did an outstanding submission to the Ranger Enquiry on sustainable transport. He has held offical positions in Bicycle Victoria, Bicycle Federation of Australia, Victorian Bicycle Coalition Inc. and the Town and Country Planning Association and many other community organisations. He is a tireless researcher and activist campaigner on sustainable transport, particularly cycling, and town planning.
Ballarat City Council refuse to fly the Eureka flag from the top of the Town Hall on this special day. A brief protest was held on the footpath outside the Town Hall. None of the councillors or mayor replied to requests for the Eureka Flag to be flown from the most prominent flagpole atop the Ballarat Town Hall on the anniversary – December 3. Ballarat uses the Eureka story to generate tourism and business, but the Council is not prepared to fly the Eureka flag, the symbol of the story, prominently on the anniversary. Hypocrites?
At the old Ballarat Cemetery both the Diggers and Soldiers Memorials were visited allowing people to read for themself the fight over the history and importance of Eureka in the memorials. Joe Toscano awarded “Eureka Dollars”, one dollar coins from 2004 produced by the Australian Mint, to those people who have consistently attended the commemoration events.
After the cemetery there was the long march back to Eureka Park for lunch and discussion over activities for the next year’s events.
Eureka is a pivotal moment in the history of Australia with its legacy and historical importance still being fought over and debated.
Peter McGregor’s Speech
(Ed note: It was the 6th anniversary of the Eureka Commemoration on December 3 instituted by the Anarchist Media Institute – the 3rd year of the Eureka Australia Day Awards)
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land. And my darling companion Johanna. And I’d like to thank the Anarchist Media Institute & Joe Toscano for awarding me a Eureka Australia Day Medal. (EAM) There are many other people more deserving of such a medal but I’m flattered & delighted to receive it; & I accept it on behalf of all on you lovely people here today.
My understanding of what life is comes from Kurt Vonnegurt’s autobiography “A Man Without a Country” where he says life is about helping each other get thru it – quite similar to the Eureka Oath, eh ? “…to stand true to each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.” And I like the idea that when you dream alone, it is just a dream, but when you dream together, it is reality. (Brasilian folksong) And the idea of ‘Paying it Forward’ – see the film. Thanks for the dreams that I have had with many of you.
I think a lot of us here today are examples of how growing old is compulsory but growing up is optional. As well as being examples of Alice Walker’s idea of people who ‘Possess the Secret Of Joy’….I’m not going to tell you what that secret is…you will have to read Alice’s book.
I want to finish with a short song – the song is short but the title of the play/film it comes from is long – ‘the persecution & assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, as performed by the inmates of the asylum of Charenton, under the direction of the Marquis de Sade.’ (or just ‘Marat Sade’ !)
153 GLORIOUS YEARS153 GLORIOUS YEARSYEARS OF PEACEYEARS OF WAREACH YEAR BETTER THAT THE YEAR BEFORE153 GLORIOUS GLORIOUS GLORIOUS YEARSACTIVISTSWE’RE MARCHING ON………….
6 GLORIOUS YEARS6 GLORIOUS YEARSYEARS OF PEACEYEARS OF WAREACH YEAR BETTER THAT THE YEAR BEFORE6 GLORIOUS GLORIOUS GLORIOUS YEARSTHE ANARCHIST MEDIA INSTITUTE GOES MARCHING ONBY RECLAIMING OUR HISTORY, WE CAN USE THAT HISTORY,TO HELP TO CHANGE THE FUTURE
And this is why we are hearing today… & why are we hear today ?
WE’RE HEAR BECAUSE, WE’RE HEAR BECAUSE, WE’RE HEARBECAUSE, WE’RE HEAR….WE’RE HEAR BECAUSE, WE’RE HEAR BECAUSE, WE’RE HEARBECAUSE, WE’RE HEAR…