about ballarat's rich history
Eureka Stockade armed uprising
The biggest alluvial gold rush in the world began in 1851 when John Dunlop and James Regan panned a few ounces of gold at Canadian Creek in Ballarat. This chance finding marked the beginning of Ballarat's fascinating and turbulent history.
One month later more than 1,000 prospectors had made their way to the former sheep run; within two years the new town was abuzz with around 20,000 miners working shallow alluvial clay deposits on the Ballarat fields.
There were enormously rich finds. Imagine being a bystander the day one party panned 376 ounces from a Ballarat creek, and witnessing the excitement and the rushed plans to get the gold to the safety of a bank. In 1853 alone, 9,926 kilograms of gold were shipped to Melbourne, with a further 77,700 kilograms transported from 1854 to 1857.
But it wasn't all quick riches and instant fortunes. The Government wanted its share of the fabulous wealth. Miners were denied the right to vote (only male property-owners could vote) but were made to pay a gold license: approximately one pound a month in advance for the right to mine eight square feet. It was just less than the average weekly wage. Those without a permit were arrested.
When the cost of licenses jumped the diggers were outraged. A mass meeting was held at Bakery Hill Ballarat in November 1854, where miners burnt their licenses and raised the Eureka Flag, their symbol of freedom from repression, in protest of the unfair conditions. They demanded license abolition and the right of political representation. They were refused.
For protection, the miners barricaded themselves into a hastily erected stockade armed with a few guns and pikes. But 300 soldiers and troopers attacked the stockade at dawn on December 3, 1854, killing 28 miners and wounding many more. It was a massacre. Public outrage broke the grip of Australia's pre-gold colonial establishment and led to the founding of a more democratic legislative assembly in Victoria. The Eureka Rebellion was the birth of democracy in Australia.
The Irishman that led the fight for democracy in Australia
Once upon a time, in Ireland, the youngest of eleven sons was born to a poor landowner. Little did Patrick Lalor know that this son would eventually be dubbed the father of democracy in Australia.
Young Peter Lalor, escaping the ravages of famine in Ireland, emigrated to Australia and came to Ballarat in search of a better life. He was rebellious by nature, having spent much of his youth watching his family fight the English.
Peter was naturally drawn to lead the miners against the colonial establishment, which had levied an unfair mining tax, to be paid before digging. If a miner had no luck, he found himself in horrible debt and the police knocking on his door. The injustice led to the Eureka Stockade armed uprising and the bloody battle where Peter Lalor lost an arm.
Following the uprising, Lalor was a wanted man - a trouble maker. Spirited away, he was hidden by supporters.
Eventually the warrant for his arrest was withdrawn, the miners were given the right to vote and the monthly gold tax was abolished. Lalor had won. He was appointed to the Victorian parliament in 1855 and remained there for the rest of his life. His legacy is the oath of allegiance used by the miners at the Eureka Stockade and today remains the motto of thousands of Australian workers and unionists: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties"
As well as that, Lalor had a suburb, a federal electorate and a secondary college named after him. Not bad for the youngest of eleven sons of an Irish family in the early 1800s.
Enormous wealth was generated by gold in Ballarat in those early days. In today's figures, the region is said to have yielded about $10 billion worth of gold, although the real figure is probably twice that given, many diggers kept their discoveries to themselves. But we do know that by 1860, Ballarat was home to the finest collection of bluestone and brick buildings in the colony.
Take a walk around the city, now rich in both culture and heritage, and take in the graceful and timeless architecture. A short walk will bring the Eureka spirit alive and allow you to trace Ballarat's golden past.
For more information on history related activities visit the "Things to Do" section of the website.