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"
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The Great Australian Goldrush & Eureka Stockade
A Radical Reinterpretation, by R.D. Walshe
This new book is a product of the extensive nationwide 150th Anniversary Celebrations of Eureka, 1854-2004.
Author Bob Walshe was asked to address meetings in Melbourne, Sydney and Ballarat when it became known that 50 years earlier he had been secretary of a Sydney Eureka Centenary Committee: What did he think of Eureka after half a century of reflection? In his words...
"I read widely and had to conclude that Eureka has been grossly underrated, except by a very few historians. I felt obliged to offer what I call 'a radical reinterpretation', using the word radical in its classical sense of going to the roots of a problem.
"I realised Eureka should always have been seen as an historic landmark, for its Southern Cross flag was - symbolically speaking - run up at a peak of the incredible 1850s rush of diggers to the goldfields, a largely immigrant influx which brought a 'critical mass' of population after the decades of small and scattered colonial settlement.
"By the end of 1854, significant concentrations of people on the goldfields and in the handful of cities and towns had grown impatient with rule by out-of-touch British governors who were backed only by an elite of wealthy and privileged colonists.
"From Eureka onward, the glaring inequality of colonial society was challenged by a clamorous 'popular movement' of the middle classes, tradesmen, wage-workers and unemployed who wanted a say in government. Eureka marked, in short, the arrival of the modern clash of conservative-versus-liberal/left interests.
"I believe we should be declaring of Eureka...
- It was/is the most dramatic single event in Australian history.
- It was an essentially defensive action against oppressive government.
- It swiftly won a remarkable series of reforms of goldfields administration.
- It launched the first truly 'popular movement' for reform of government.
- It radically questioned the meaning of the glibly used word 'democracy'.
- Its famous oath emphasised the need always to stand up for human rights.
- Its radical, republican, democracy-demanding tradition has never stopped growing, as last year's 150th Celebrations showed."
The Great Australian Goldrush & Eureka Stockade, by R.D. Walshe, published by Literary Productions Pty Ltd, Sydney, 2005, 96pp, p/b, ISBN 0646 45395 5, RRP $19.95.
Inquiries: Literary Productions Pty Ltd, 22 Mitchell Avenue, Jannali NSW 2226, ph 02 9528 0444, fax 02 9528 4445.