The Eureka Flag first hoisted in 1854
The Eureka Flag was first unfurled in 1854 in protest against heavy-handed, unelected officialdom. The proclamation was ‘the Australian flag [referring to the Eureka flag] shall triumphantly wave, a symbol of liberty’. At the time, the raising of the flag was seen by officials as a traitorous act. To this day, it remains a potent symbol of Australian nationalism and democracy. The sight of the Eureka flag is sure to stir the blood of any dinkum Aussie.
Read about the event that inspired the Eureka Flag.
Eye witness account of the Eureka Flag being raised for the first time:
The 'Southern Cross' was hoisted up the flagstaff - a very splendid pole, eighty feet in length, and straight as an arrow... There is no flag in old Europe half so beautiful as the 'Southern Cross' of the Ballarat miners, first hoisted on the old spot, Bakery HIll. The flag is silk, blue background, with a large silver cross, similar to the one in our southern firmament; no device or arms, but all exceedingly chaste and natural. Rafaello Carboni
The original Eureka Flag
The original Eureka flag still exists today, though fairly tattered, with pieces souvenired over the decades. The original Eureka flag is surprisingly large, being 4m x 2.6m (before the souveniring), and is currently held in low light conditions at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. It is very unusual for the original flag of a pivotal historic event to still be in existence, and is considered a national treasure.
Symbolism of the Eureka flag
What does the Eureka Flag stand for? This is a controversial question which has been debated over the years. Three significant symbols of the Eureka flag are:
JUSTICE DEMOCRACY NATIONALISM
The Eureka Flag is a shining symbol of the Aussie FAIR GO
The great Australian ideal of a fair go for all. Some have said the Eureka rebellion was the birth of Aussie fair go. Its an ideal that has persisted through our history. You'll hear politicians speak the words frequently; evidence of the importance of the notion in the national psyche. Its what the miners were calling for... a fair go, without oppressive government. The Eureka flag is a shining symbol of the fair go.
The dramatic events that occurred on Bakery Hill in 1854 led to significant government reforms. The most significant being the transformation to representative government. Although New South Wales already had already progressed towards representative government, Victoria had not. The Eureka rebellion solidified the importance of a full democratic participation.
On November11, 1854, Henry Seekampf wrote in the Ballarat Times: "this League is nothing more or less than the germ of Australian independence". We see here just the sparkle of an idea that Australia may one day be a nation in its own right, free from British rule. Notice the similarities between the Eureka Flag and the Federation Flag, which was designed in 1831, and was proposed as a possible national flag for Australia.
Other uses of the Eureka Flag
The Aussie Rebel
Though Ned Kelly had no connection with the Eureka flag, the two are sometimes associated. This is a reflection of the 'Aussie Rebel' sentiments that often surround the flag. Its a little disconcerting to see some Australians using the American rebel (confederate) flag; a symbol which has little relevance here.
The Eureka flag was seen by officials as a symbol of rebellious miners. The flag was torn from its pride of place and desecrated. Their actions did nothing to dampen the spirit of the Eureka Flag. The miners' fight continued, successfully gaining many of the reforms they had called for.
See Sidney Nolan's image of Ned Kelly at our Aussie Icons page
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