Australian Democracy was Born at Eureka

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Australian Democracy Was Born At Eureka by Russell White

“The birth of Australian Democracy was on this spot,” said Mr R. T. White, MLA, yesterday. He was addressing a crowd of 4000 which attended the 96th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade.

“To-day is the commemoration of one of the events which should be treated with more respect because of its importance,” he continued. “The events at Eureka play a great part in our everyday life.” The Eureka incident occurred on December 3, 1854. In the November before, the gold field miners at Ballarat made arrangements to approach the Government for more Democratic treatment. At the time they were smarting because of the unjust duress by the Government. They wanted manhood suffrage and a constitutional Government. The miners approached the Governor, Sir Charles Hotham, who refused their demands. “This was the spark which started the flame leading to the Stockade on December 3,” said Mr White. Few Had Vote “The affair at Eureka was not a shameful event,” he declared. “we should be proud of it. It was the main factor in creating a new era as far as our Government is concerned.” Of the 20,000 people in Ballarat at the time mostly miners and mostly Britishers not one had a vote. One third of the Government was elected by the Governor, while the other two-thirds consisted of a restricted franchise allowing mainly those of means and wealth a vote. “The miners demanded the right of representation.” Said Mr White. “They fought for it during the revolt and now it is an accomplished fact. They were after something that was the very basis of democracy.” Mr White said that behind the event lay the miners’ sacrifices from which all Australia had gained. “Their sacrifices were not in vain,” he said. “the things they asked for have been written in the Constitution.” Leader of the rebellion, Peter Lalor later became a Member of Parliament and Speaker. Mr White deplored that some organisations to-day used the word Eureka to popularise their activities. They were creating false impression in Australia by advocating an anti-British attitude. “Eureka” will take an increasing important place among Australia’s national days,” he said. He paid tribute to the Eureka Improvement League which has done a marvellous job in transforming the battle area into one of the outstanding beauty spots of Victoria. Fought For Us Later Mr White said that next year’s anniversary would have added significance because it would be part of the State wide gold centenary celebrations. The Rev W. J. Wiley said the event was not just an affair, but created history. The miners’ protest to the Government against their unfair treatment was a historical fact. Miners licenses then cost 30/ to £3. Their demands included manhood suffrage and parliamentary representation. Although defeated in battle they won the campaign for their demands were fulfilled. “The democratic principles they fought for are ours to-day,” he said. Rev Wiley said Peter Lalor after entering Parliament was Ballarat’s first representative and later became member for Grant. The Mayor Cr J.C. Rowe, introduced the speakers. He described the event as a historical occasion. President of the Eureka Improvement League, Mr J. H. Stanley thanked the speakers. Solos and items from the RSL band were given during the proceedings.