eurekaSydney
An Australia guided by the spirit of the Eureka Tradition as symbolised by the diggers' flag and oath:
"We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties"

The Eureka Flag

The Eureka flag was designed by a Canadian, Lieutenant Ross. It was hand sewn by Anastasia Withers, Anne Duke and Elizabeth Hayes just before the 'monster meeting' at Bakery Hill in Ballarat on Wednesday the 29th November 1854. The flag was 12 ft by 8 ft and had five stars on a cross, sewn on a blue background. The stars have eight points because the women who sewed it were pressed for time and folded the material in four when they cut out the stars.

An eighty foot flagpole was erected for the meeting at Bakery Hill and the flag was first raised just before the meeting at around 2pm on Wednesday the 29th November. Raffello Carboni mounted the stump beneath the Southern Cross and called upon all "irrespective of nationality, religion and colour" to salute the Southern Cross "as the refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on earth".

Eye-witness account

Raffello Carboni, who published an account of the uprising "The Eureka Stockade" (Melbourne, 1855), wrote:

"The 'SOUTHERN CROSS' was hoisted up the flagstaff - a very splendid pole, eighty feet in length, and straight as an arrow. This maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of armed men, sturdy, self-overworking gold-diggers of all languages and colours, was a fascinating object to behold. There is no flag in old Europe half so beautiful as the 'Southern Cross' of the Ballaarat miners, first hoisted on the old spot, Bakery-hill. The flag is silk, blue ground, with a large silver cross, similar to the one in our southern firmament; no device or arms, but all exceedingly chaste and natural.

Captain Ross, of Toronto, was the bridegroom of our flag, and sword in hand, he had posted himself at the foot of the flag-staff, surrounded by his rifle division.

Peter Lalor, our Commander-in-chief, was on the stump, holding with his left hand the muzzle of his rifle, whose butt-end rested on his foot. A gesture of his right hand, signified what he meant when he said, " It is my duty now to swear you in, and to take with you the oath to be faithful to the Southern Cross. Hear me with attention. The man who, after this solemn oath does not stand by our standard, is a coward in heart. " I order all persons who do not intend to take the oath, to leave the meeting at once. " Let all divisions under arms 'fall in' in their order round the flag-staff."

The movement was made accordingly. Some five hundred armed diggers advanced in real sober earnestness, the captains of each division making the military salute to Lalor, who now knelt down, the head uncovered, and with the right hand pointing to the standard exclaimed a firm measured tone:
" WE SWEAR BY THE SOUTHERN CROSS TO STAND TRULY BY EACH OTHER, AND FIGHT TO DEFEND OUR RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES."

An universal well rounded AMEN, was the determined reply; some five hundred right hands stretched towards our flag."

Restoration

Restoration carried out on the original flag in 1973 showed it was made of a fine woolen mohair fabric, possessing a `silky' sheen mentioned by Carboni. The stars were made of a transparent white `petticoat' lawn.

The original hand-stitched flag is now housed at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

States to fly the Eureka Flag

State Premiers in all states of Australia have agreed to fly the Eureka Flag to commemorate the 150th aniversary in December 2004

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said Flying the Flag was a national symbol of unity in recognition of Eureka's 150th anniversary.

"The Eureka Stockade is an event of national historical significance, and the flag is intrinsically tied to that event," Mr Bracks said.

"It is important that all Australians take ownership of the legacy of the Eureka Stockade. The Eureka Stockade was a critical event not only in the development of our democratic rights and freedoms but our national identity and the fair go culture."

"Everyone can recognise the national importance of the Eureka Stockade and participate in Flying the Flag."

Federal Government refuses to fly the Eureka Flag

Prime Minister John Howard refused to allow the Eureka Flag to be flown on Parliament House in Canberra. His snub was countered by the ACT Government which ensured that the road leading to Parliament was lined with Eureka Flags.

Flew for 5 days but never forgotten

"It flew for only five days until it was torn from its staff in the heat of the battle of the Eureka Stockade on December 3, 1854. Taken by the victors as a trophy of war, it disappeared to a country farmhouse, then later a bank vault, and was all but forgotten by the Australian public for 120 years, until it was unveiled - in all its restored glory - at Ballarat's Fine Art Gallery in 1973.

Yet the "Southern Cross Flag" was never really abandoned. The labour movement of the late 19th century understood its power and what the flag represented - an emblem for those who sought to struggle against tyranny or oppression - and realised its potential as a symbol for street marches and political demonstrations."

Peter Solness (Sydney Morning Herald: September 11 2004)

Eureka Flag Fragment withdrawn from sale

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