EDITORIAL: Our duty is to keep Eureka identity alive

We are custodians to an incredible piece of Australian history and identity stemming from a time, on our goldfields, long before Australia had come together as a nation. And we need to do a better job of promoting the stories that define us.

It is our role to keep the alive Eureka stories – the controversial and the proud – the stories that unfolded right here in Ballarat more than 160 years ago.

Historians can argue about how significantly the Eureka Stockade ranks in the big moments of Australian history, but there is no doubting this was the first time early settlers stood up to British rule.

Decorated Australian historian and international rugby player Peter FitzSimons says the Eureka story should be elevated to the ranks of Gallipoli for the building blocks of mateship, egalitarianism and liberty. 

Mr FitzSimons delivered an emotive and passionate Peter Tobin Oration at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat on Sunday. 

We as a city need to channel a little more of the enthusiasm and pride in what took place in our own backyard.

Acknowledging the untold stories in the narrative is a big part of this. Eureka Day commemorations on Sunday paid tribute to women on the goldfields officially for the first time. About 4000 women lived and worked on the goldfields: wives, mothers, teachers, nurses, poets, actresses, journalists, shopkeepers, seamstresses and carers.

Ballarat actor and writer Liana Skewes shared the story of her three-times great grandmother, who saved the life of Peter Lalor after the stockade but had long been written out of history. Phoebe Scobie did not have a street or hotel named after her, like some of the goldfields stars, and she could not have an official civic voice, nor attend the swearing of the oath.

But we can tell her story now.

Legend has it that women sewed the Eureka Flag, and item housed in MADE that Mr FitzSimons declares is Australia’s own Crown jewel.

The American equivalent, the Star-Spangled Banner (a precursor to the American national flag), was similarly sewn on a battlefield against British rule. It is housed in the United States’ capital Washington, DC. There is special, solemn lighting at the National Museum of American History and long queues to see it.

We need to start spruiking more the Eureka flag, and all it represents, is right here.