On Tuesday December the 3rd, 2002, radical activists reclaimed the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion. At 4:00 a.m. they gathered at the Eureka stockade site in Ballarat, Southern Cross in the sky. Waiting for dawn to break, they spoke about the importance and the significance of the day to them, celebrating the sacrifices made 148 years ago by people who swore by “the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties”.
Later on in the morning our numbers increased as we marched to Bakery Hill and back to the Eureka stockade site behind a huge banner that shouted “Reclaim the Radical Spirit of the Eureka Rebellion”. The Eureka rebellion was based on three fundamental principles that are as important today as they were in 1854 Direct Democracy: important decisions about the direction of the movement were made at mass meetings at Bakery Hill that were attended by up to 12,000 people; Direct Action: the stockades used extra-parliamentary means and strategies to achieve their aims; Solidarity: they understood the importance of mutual aid and worked together to achieve their objectives.
It was very sad to see how little effort was made to celebrate the 148th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion in Ballarat and in the rest of Australia on the day it occurred the 3rd of December. We were the only people there at dawn, and, apart from one lecture, it seems their were no other events in Ballarat to mark the day on the 3rd of December, the day the rebellion was crushed in a sea of blood. Eureka has and continues to play an important role in the Nation’s psyche. If we are not careful, the 150th anniversary celebrations in 2004 run the very real risk of becoming a sanitised tourist spectacular that will ignore the radical nature of the rebellion and its significance today.
Those unions that use the Eureka flag should be fighting to have the 3rd December declared a holiday in upcoming enterprise bargaining agreements. The 3rd December should be declared a public holiday so people can reflect on and celebrate the day. Irrespective of whether it’s a public holiday or not, we should take the day off on December 3rd and celebrate the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion, a spirit that is as important today as it was in 1854. See you at the Eureka stockade site at Ballarat for the 149th anniversary celebrations on December 3rd, 2003. If you can’t make it, take the day off, organise your own celebrations and reclaim the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion.