Clinton Fernandes' Speech - 165th Eureka Anniversary

by Professor Clinton Fernandes, UNSW Canberra.

MUA Hall, 46-54 Ireland St, West Melbourne.

28 November 2019

Clinton Fernandes15 minutes. 15 minutes is all it took, and the effect has reverberated through Australian history 165 years later. Up to 40 miners were killed in the assault on the Eureka stockade, along with one officer and four soldiers.

The Eureka rebellion has become a formative event in the national mythology. For some, it’s a democratic uprising against imperial authority. For organized workers, it’s the first great event in the emergence of the labour movement. For others, it’s a tax revolt by small business. But however we interpret it, it’s clear that it was about class. As David Hosking sings in “Backbone River”, “You're put in your place while [another group] wins the race without running … So at Bakery Hill, they said it's either be killed or be mastered.”

It’s a mistake to think the people in Ballarat in the 1850s were more independent minded than Australians are today. One future Conservative prime minister of Great Britain was “aghast” at the “submissiveness” he sometimes encountered on the goldfields. The legend of the independent, free-thinking Australian mind puzzled observers, who saw plenty of evidence of “spineless timidity in the face of authority.”

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Parent Category: Spirit Content

We stand with Yuendumu

by Bryda Nichols

for the Worker Student Alliance

We stand with YuendumuThe following statement came from the WSA - Worker Student Alliance Facebook page

Rest in power Kumanjayi Walker. Rest in power to all our indigenous brothers and sisters that have been murdered in the ongoing colonisation of so-called Australia.

Last week WSA attended a rally in his memory. Walker was murdered in his home while his family were burying his uncle. He was murdered by a NT police officer who has since been charged with murder and is out on bail. Since then, the bourgeoisie media and corrupt police associations have been defending the character of a murderer thereby protecting the interest of the ruling class.

Read more: We stand with Yuendumu

Parent Category: Spirit Content

Joan Coxsedge's Speech - 165th Eureka Anniversay

We share below Joan Coxsedge's address at the recent 165th Eureka Rebellion Anniversary Event in Melbourne. Joan was awarded the 2019 Spirit of Eureka Award for her tireless and unwavering dedication and work over more than 50 years for social justice, real democratic rights for the people and against imperialism and imperialist wars. We also share Spirit of Eureka's presentation address of the award to Joan, which contains some things that about Joan's life as an activist that she didn't touch on in her speech.

"Eureka Stockade Celebration" - Joan Coxsedge, 28 November 2019

I’d like to start with the story of two brothers who were involved in the Eureka Stockade.

One was my great-grandfather, Dan Hogan. Dan was born in Liverpool and in 1848 at age 16 was apprenticed into the Merchant Navy, joining the crew of the Mary Rae which sailed around the world.  He later joined the Royal Navy and served on the sloop Fantome  which took part in the Crimean War. The ship eventually sailed into Australian waters and in 1854 was moored in Port Phillip Bay when the Eureka Stockade erupted, triggered by the imposition of thirty shillings a month tax on the gold miners.  Able Seaman Hogan was one of the naval contingent ordered to march to Ballarat to ‘quell the trouble’.

On the opposite side of the conflict was his bother, Jeremiah Hogan, my great uncle, who was born in Killarney in 1826.  Jeremiah arrived in Australia in 1852 and was a miner at the Eureka Stockade. He was arrested and later released without charge, and spent the rest of his life in Ballarat, working as a tailor.

To complete the connection, I was born in Ballarat because my father worked in the railways.  But we didn’t stay long because the winters were too cold my mother said, so we returned home to Kensington, very working class back then. This was at the height of the Great Depression, a terrible time when unemployment peaked at over 35% with another third on ‘short-time’ when work was rationed to one week in three and wages were slashed. 

I was at primary school in 1937 when a severe polio epidemic - then called infantile paralysis - swept the state.  Picture theatres and schools were closed and lessons arrived by mail, with Victoria virtually quarantined from the rest of the country.  And then there was Black Friday, 13 January 1939, another date I’ll never forget. Streams and dams dried up and water was rationed, even in Melbourne. The temperature hovered for over 100 degrees for the entire week, but on that particular day, the mercury shot up to more than 114 degrees with humidity below 10 per cent accompanied by a stinking hot north wind, a diabolical combination. On that terrible day, separate fires that had been burning for days joined up into one ferocious holocaust of flame. Pieces of bark and ash covered our streets and the sun was blotted out under a cloud of dense smoke.  Scores of people died and entire townships were burned to a crisp. At its most intense the fire burned the earth itself.

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Parent Category: Spirit Content

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The Spirit of Eureka Committee was established in the lead up to the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade in 2004, to give a strong and united voice to the current struggles of Australia’s working people.

The Spirit of Eureka draws on the continuity and relevance of this important event in the history of Australia to present day endeavours and struggles for justice, democracy and sovereignty.

The Eureka rebellion laid the foundations for Australia’s continuing social, industrial and political struggles. It was advanced for its time and represents an important fighting tradition that continues to inspire our fight today.


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