In many countries an event like the Eureka Stockade rebellion of 1854 would be commemorated, celebrated, even revered by the town or city where it occurred. But not in Ballarat. The City of Ballarat are happy to live off the tourism income from the Eureka heritage, even incorporating the eureka flag in their stylised logo, but do little in maintaining let alone building respect and recognition for the Eureka anniversary – Eureka Day. It is a national Shame.
In past years there has been some limited attempt to commemorate the anniversary event with an official flag raising outside the Town Hall, but not even that occurred this year.
The Eureka Flag has never flown from atop the highest flagpole on the Ballarat Town Hall. The Council continues to be in denial of the local and national significance of the agitation and popular rebellion on the goldfields of 1854 and it’s relevance to today.
On Saturday 30th November there was a Eureka Graves Ceremony, with people dressed up as redcoats of the 40th Regiment with a rifle salute at the site of the British war graves….but no sign of flowers laid at the Eureka Diggers memorial.
The Council has, of course, funded the expansion of the Eureka Centre at Eureka Park to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE) which allowed free entry on Eureka Day. Ballarat Trades Hall Council hosted a lecture on Eureka Day at MADE by Canberra Labor MP Andrew Leigh – you can read the full Eureka lecture on his blog.
But as people marched from Eureka Park to Bakery Hill, the site of the monster meetings in 1854, there was no stylised Eureka bunting on the flagpoles of the city.
At Bakery Hill, the Eureka Flag flying from the flagpole was tattered and torn, secured by only one corner. A Rose garden established in 2012 on the Bakery Hill round-a-bout, adds some colour but also provides a deterent to any large gathering on site.
Christmas decorations have gone up in the mall and opposite the Town Hall, but no sign of any bunting to celebrate this significant anniversary, and no councillors or council officials to symbolically raise the flag as has been done in some previous years.
At the Old Ballarat Cemetery we see no flowers on the Diggers memorial. As Joe Toscano points out, the flag that flies at the Diggers Memorial is one that was donated by one of the marchers two or so years ago. Neglect just continues.
Read Joe Toscano’s letter to the Ballarat Courier, published on December 6, 2013:
Dr Joseph Toscano made a powerful speech at the Diggers memorial regarding the lack of pride by City of Ballarat, particularly this year. This is not only a point of local shame, it is a national shame. Those who died that fateful morning, both miners and soldiers, deserve better respect.
The streets of the city of Ballarat echoed with the Eureka oath on Tuesday on the march from Eureka Park to the Old Cemetery and back, but were met by the sounds of silence from Council. Let us hope there is more pride in commemorating the 160th anniversary in 2014.
“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties”