Eyewitness at Eureka

Anthony Fyson reads a letter from his great-grandfather, who as a young man was caught up in the Eureka Stockade, where gold-miners in Ballarat, Victoria, famously clashed with state troops, 150 years ago this month.

Eureka Stockade Riot. J. B. Henderson (1854) watercolourIn December 1854, growing tension between the government of Victoria and the thousands who had flocked to the gold-fields near Melbourne over the previous three years flared into armed insurrection. Provoked by corrupt and insensitive policing, and harbouring long-standing grievances about extortionate mining licence fees and a restrictive system of land ownership, hundreds of miners burnt their permits and built a makeshift defensive stockade on the Eureka gold lead at Ballarat. The British colonial administration responded with overwhelming force. A brief but bloody assault led to some hundred casualties, including a likely total of thirty-five dead miners, in an act of repression commemorated in Australia to this day. Here is a contemporary account of what happened written by one miner, Alfred Madocks from Ipswich.

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