The Eureka Flag is a flag design which features dark blue field 260 cm × 400 cm (100 in × 160 in) (2:3.08 ratio); a horizontal stripe 37 cm (15 in) wide and a vertical line crossing it of 36 centimetres (14 in) wide; and 5 eight pointed stars, the central star being 65 cm (26 in) tall (point to point) and the other stars 60 cm (24 in) tall, representing the Crux Australis constellation.
The design was first used as the war flag of the Eureka Rebellion (3 December 1854) at Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. A number of people swore allegiance to the flag as a symbol of defiance at its first flying at Bakery Hill on 29 November 1854. Over 30 miners were killed at the Eureka Stockade, along with six troopers and police. Some 125 miners were arrested and many others badly wounded.
The flag design has gained wider notability in Australian culture due to its adoption as a symbol of democracy, egalitarianism, and general purpose symbol of protest, mainly in relation to a variety of anti-establishment, non-conformist causes. It is listed as an object of state heritage significance on the Victorian Heritage Register and was designated as a Victorian Icon by the National Trust in 2006. It is used by many trade unions in Australia as well as by a number of right-wing organizations and political parties, such as the Australia First Party.
Origin and symbolism
The flag is reputed to have been designed by a Canadian member of the Ballarat Reform League, Captain Henry Ross. Local legend claims that the flag was sewn by three local women – Anastasia Withers, Anne Duke and Anastasia Hayes.
Ross was said to be inspired by the design of the Australian Federation Flag.
According to Frank Cayley's book, Flag of Stars, the flag's five stars represent the Southern Cross, and the white cross joining the stars represents unity in defiance.
The flag is silk, blue ground with large silver cross; no device or arms, but all exceedingly chaste and natural.
Oath swearing at Bakery Hill
It flew for the first (recorded) occasion on Bakery Hill as a symbol of the resistance of the gold miners during the Eureka Stockade rebellion in the year 1854. Beneath this flag, Peter Lalor, leader of the Ballarat Reform League, swore this oath to the affirmation of his fellow demonstrators: "we swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties."
According to the Ballarat Times, which first mentioned the flag a week earlier on 24 November 1854, at "about eleven o'clock the 'Southern Cross' was hoisted, and its maiden appearance was a fascinating object to behold."
The present day location of this event is likely to be 29 St. Paul's Way, Bakery Hill. Although it is presently a carpark and for a hundred years was the location of a school, it will soon be the location of an apartment block.
Trooper John King retained the flag and it was held by his family for forty years until it was lent to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in 1895, where it remained in continued obscurity "under a cloud of skepticism and conservative disapproval"; bits of the flag were cut off and given to visiting dignitaries. Approximately 31% of the original specimen is missing.
The flag was "re-discovered" by Len Fox during the 1940s, but it took decades to convince authorities to properly authenticate the flag. it was found after World War II in a drawer at the gallery, discovered by members of the Australian Communist Party. The final irrefutable validation of its authentication occurred when sketchbooks of Canadian Charles Doudiet were put up for sale at a Christies auction in 1996. Two sketches in particular show the flag design as contained in the tattered remains of the flag at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. The remnant of the original Eureka Flag remains today, preserved for public display at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. In 2001, legal ownership of the flag was transferred to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, which expects the King family and the gallery to be acknowledged every time a replica of the original flag is displayed. It is listed as an object of state heritage significance on the Victorian Heritage Register and was named as an icon by the National Trust in 2006.
Contemporary meaning, notability and controversy
Since the original miners revolt at Eureka, the flag, born out of adversity, continues to be regarded by some as a symbol of rebellion closely associated with the struggle for democracy and unity.
In the event that the design of the Flag of Australia is ever reviewed, some republicans support the Eureka Flag being one of the options in a plebiscite.
Whilst some Australians view the Eureka Flag as a symbol of nationality (see Australian flag debate), it is more often employed by historical societies and re-enactors and by political radicals as a general purpose symbol of protest for a wide variety of anti-establishment non-conformist causes. The flag has been used as a symbol of rebellion by groups on both sides of the political spectrum, from left-wing trade unions such as the CFMEU and ETU to white nationalist groups Australia First Party, National Action and other neo-Nazis, who began to use it in the 1980s. Depending on their political persuasion, they see it as representative of the efforts of the miners to free themselves from political or economic oppression, and by white supremacists at flashpoints for racial confrontation. Along these lines, some also believe that the flag used during the Lambing Flat riots was a derivative of the Eureka Flag.
During a 1983 royal tour, a republican supporter informally presented a small Eureka Flag to Diana, Princess of Wales, who did not recognise it. The event prompted a cartoon of the royal couple with Charles, Prince of Wales, observing "Mummy will not be pleased."
Eureka Jack mystery
In 2013 a theory was put forward, based on the Argus account of the battle dated 4 December 1854, and an affidavit sworn by private Hugh King three days later as to a flag being seized from a prisoner captured at the stockade, that a Union Jack, known as the Eureka Jack may also have been flown by the rebels. Enquiries made by the Art Gallery of Ballarat, custodians of the Eureka Flag, have so far been unable to solve this mystery. In his 2012 book Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution, Peter FitzSimons states:
In my opinion, this report of the Union Jack being on the same flagpole as the flag of the Southern Cross is not credible. There is no independent corroborating report in any other newspaper, letter, diary or book, and one would have expected Raffaello Carboni, for one, to have mentioned it had that been the case. The paintings of the flag ceremony and battle by Charles Doudiet, who was in Ballarat at the time, depicts no Union Jack. During the trial for high treason, the flying of the Southern Cross was an enormous issue, yet no mention was ever made of the Union Jack flying beneath.
Private Hugh King who was with the 40th regiment swore in a signed contemporaneous affidavit that he recalled:
"...three or four hundred yards a heavy fire from the stockade was opened on the troops and me. When the fire was opened on us we received orders to fire. I saw some of the 40th wounded lying on the ground but I cannot say that it was before the fire on both sides. I think some of the men in the stockade should - they had a flag flying in the stockade; it was a white cross of five stars on a blue ground. - flag was afterwards taken from one of the prisoners like a union jack – we fired and advanced on the stockade, when we jumped over, we were ordered to take all we could prisoners..."
Following the committal hearings for the Eureka rebels there would be another Argus report dated 9 December 1854 stating that two flags had been seized in the following terms:
“The great topic of interest to-day has been the proceedings in reference to the state prisoners now confined in the Camp. As the evidence of the witnesses in these cases is more reliable information than that afforded by most reports, I shall endeavor to give you an abstract of it.” Hugh King had been called upon to give further testimony live under oath in the matter of Timothy Hayes and in doing so went into more detail than in his affidavit, as it was reported the Union Jack like flag was found:
"...rollen up in the breast of a[n] [unidentified] prisoner. He [King] advanced with the rest, firing as they advanced ... several shots were fired on them after they entered [the stockade]. He observed the prisoner [Hayes] brought down from a tent in custody."
In The Revolt at Eureka, part of a 1958 illustrated history series for students, the artist Ray Wenban would remain faithful to the first reports of the battle with his rendition featuring two flags flying above the Eureka Stockade. Military historian and author of Eureka Stockade: A Ferocious and Bloody Battle, Gregory Blake, has conceded the rebels may have flown two battle flags as they were claiming to be defending their British rights. There is a possibility that the flag being carried by the prisoner had been souvenired from the flag pole as the garrison was fleeing the stockade. Once taken by Constable John King the Eureka flag was placed beneath his tunic in the same fashion as the suspected Union Jack was found on the prisoner.
In 2013 the Australian Flag Society announced a worldwide quest and $10,000 reward for more information and materials in relation to the Eureka Jack mystery.
A similar flag was flown prominently above the Barcaldine strike camp of the 1891 Australian shearers' strike, and thus has had a strong association with the Australian labour movement from this time. Construction unions such as the Builders Labourers' Federation in particular adopted the Eureka Flag, and it is one of the flags that flies permanently over the Melbourne Trades Hall.
The Eureka Flag was also used by supporters of Gough Whitlam after he was dismissed as prime minister.
The sesquicentenary of the Eureka Stockade occurred in December 2004, and the Eureka Flag was used extensively during the events that were organised to promote awareness of the occasion. It was flown within each state parliament building in Australia, the federal senate, and most prominently atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson made the Eureka Flag a federal election campaign issue in 2004 saying "I think people have tried to make too much of the Eureka Stockade... trying to give it a credibility and standing that it probably doesn't enjoy."
The dimensions of the Eureka Flag are 260 cm × 400 cm (100 in × 160 in) (2:3.08 ratio). The horizontal cross is 37 cm (15 in) wide and the vertical cross 36 cm (14 in) wide. The central star is slightly larger than the others and is 65 cm (26 in) tall (point to point) and the other stars 60 cm (24 in) tall.
The modern design of the Eureka Flag is an enhanced and different version from the 1854 original with blue key lines around each of five equal stars. It is frequently made in the proportions of 20:13. Although the flag is designed as a representation of the Southern Cross, a constellation located in southern skies and thus only visible to viewers in the southern hemisphere, the stars are arranged differently from the arrangement of stars in the constellation itself. The "middle" star (Epsilon Crucis) in the constellation is off-centre, and near to the edge of the "diamond", while the Eureka Flag shows it in the centre. The Eureka Flag is only a stylised version of the more widely known pattern.
Derivatives and popular culture
During the Lambing Flat riots in 1861, a series of violent anti-Chinese demonstrations that took place in the Burrangong region, in New South Wales, Australia, on the goldfields at Spring Creek, Stoney Creek, Back Creek, Wombat, Blackguard Gully, Tipperary Gully and Lambing Flat (now Young, New South Wales), the Lambing Flat banner was painted on a tent-flap, now on display at the Lambing Flat Museum, bearing a Southern Cross superimposed over a St Andrew's cross with the inscription "roll up – no Chinese"; the banner has been claimed by some as a variant of the Eureka Flag, which served as an advertisement for a public meeting that presaged the Lambing Flat riots.
Today the Eureka Flag has been adopted by a variety of groups, including the Builders Labourers Federation and the Australia First Party. The City of Ballarat and University of Ballarat, for instance have used stylised versions of the 'Southern Cross' in their official logo along with several trade unions and other associated groups. The Prospectors and Miners Association of Victoria use the Eureka Flag as their official flag and would seem to be the only 'rightful' and 'correct' user of the flag today. They are the only lobby and interest group representing the rights of Gold Miners and Prospectors in the State of Victoria as the original Eureka Stockade rebellion members were.
Sporting clubs have also used the flag as a symbol including the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Rebels. Melbourne Victory supporters adopted it as a club flag for its foundation year in 2004, however it was subsequently briefly banned at A-League games by the Football Federation of Australia, but rescinded in the face of criticism from the Victorian general public. The Football Federation of Australia claimed that the ban was "unintentional".
A red Eureka Flag was used by communists during the late 1970s early 1980s. As the design was little seen and the group using it was on fringe of the communist movement the red Eureka Flag soon disappeared from view. The red Eureka Flag has since been adopted by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. The AMWU, however, has no links to communism and is instead affiliated with the Australian Labor Party.
Vintage star spangled Eureka Flag
According to Whitney Smith, writing in 1975, the Eureka Flag "perhaps because of its association with labour riots and a time of political crisis in Australian history, was long forgotten. A century after it was first hoisted, however, Australian authors began to recognise that it had been an inspiration, both in spirit and design, for many banners up to and including the current official civil and state flags of the nation."
With respect to the provenance of the star spangled Eureka Flag, Withers published in the Ballarat Star, on 1 May 1896, an article which contained a quote from John McNeil, who recalled a meeting on Bakery Hill when Robert McCandlish "unbuttoned his coat and took out and unfurled a light blue flag with some stars on it, but there was no cross on it".
- Archived 14 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- "The flag of the Southern Cross (Eureka Flag)". Art Gallery of Ballarat. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- "Eureka Flag". Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
- Huxley, John Eureka? An answer to that Jack in the corner gets a little bit warmer Sydney Morning Herald. 26 January 2011
- Thousands march for Labour Day across Queensland Australian Broadcasting Commission. 3 May 2011
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Eureka Flag, Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number H2097". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
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- Eureka Flag history
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Reclaiming the Radical Spirit of the Eureka Rebellion and Eureka Stockade of 1854". Takver.com. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
- Walshe, R. D He Found and Raised Eureka's Trampled Flag: a Tribute to Len Fox Archived 25 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
- National Trust, First Victorian Icons Named
- "Our Own Flag". Ausflag. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
- Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2006. Australian Flags. Australian Government Publishing Service ISBN 0-642-47134-7.
- "Royal visit of William and Kate recalls Diana's Eureka moment". Sydney Morning Herald. 13 April 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2014.
- Ray Wenban, The Revolt at Eureka, Australian Visual Education, volume 16, p. 27-28.
- Gregory Blake, Eureka Stockade: A ferocious and bloody battle (Big Sky Publishing, Newport, 2012), 243 - 244, note 78.
- Archived 15 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
- Archived 20 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Ham, Larissa (27 October 2008). "Soccer bosses flag end to Eureka moments". The Age. Melbourne.
- Whitney Smith, Flags Through the Ages and Across the World (McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead, 1975). p. 78.
- William Withers, "The Eureka Stockade Flag", The Ballarat Star, 1 May 1896, p. 1.
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