Packed house for Eureka Day as women of Rebellion remembered

It may have been more than 160 years since the Eureka Stockade took place in Bakery Hill, but the time didn’t stop a huge crowd from remembering the famed battle between goldfields miners and representatives of the crown. 

Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons was at M.A.D.E on Sunday to deliver the Peter Tobin Oration on Eureka Day. Picture: Dylan Burns

Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons was at M.A.D.E on Sunday to deliver the Peter Tobin Oration on Eureka Day. Picture: Dylan Burns

Hundreds of people packed the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka auditorium on Sunday as renowned author and journalist Peter FitzSimons delivered a rousing Peter Tobin Oration to mark the anniversary of Ballarat’s most iconic moment. 

In 2012 he published a book about the events 163 years ago titled Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution

Mr FitzSimons described the events at Bakery Hill on December 3 1854 as the building blocks of the modern Australian identity of mateship, egalitarianism and liberty.  He said the event needed to be elevated to the status of battles such as Gallipoli in the eyes of the Australian public. 

Peter FitzSimons delivering a passionate speech about the Eureka Rebellion and the republican movement. Picture: Dylan Burns

Peter FitzSimons delivering a passionate speech about the Eureka Rebellion and the republican movement. Picture: Dylan Burns

“It’s a great story of democracy of a group of brave people fighting for and winning their democratic rights,” Mr FitzSimons said. 

Women’s contribution to Rebellion acknowledged at M.A.D.E

The female contribution to Ballarat’s most well known uprising were honoured on Sunday as hundreds of democracy and history buffs gathered to acknowledge the 163rd anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion. 

A plaque which was donated to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka by women’s group Soroptimist International sought to pay tribute to the women who assisted in the rebellion which helped pave the way for modern Australian democracy.

Kaaren Koomen

Kaaren Koomen

The plaque which was unveiled by Wendouree MP Sharon Knight lists the many roles women of the goldfields played in the rebellion, stating “they were wives, mothers, teachers, nurses, poets, actresses, journalists, shopkeepers, seamstresses and carers, many were directly involved in the events surrounding the Eureka Stockade”.  

About 4000 women lived and worked on the goldfields around the time of the rebellion, making up about 20 per cent of the population. 

M.A.D.E chairman Kaaren Koomen said December 3 was an important day for the country and said it was encouraging to see the role of women in the rebellion being officially acknowledged within the museum. 

A packed house greeted Peter FitzSimons at M.A.D.E on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Dylan Burns

A packed house greeted Peter FitzSimons at M.A.D.E on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Dylan Burns

“Recent historians have said that women lost their lives at the Eureka Stockade.  Unnamed women, but nevertheless women were there and they suffered and lost blood as a result on this day 163 years ago,” Ms Koomen said. 

“It’s a great turnout and while the weather hasn’t been kind this is an important day in the Australian calendar and certainly the most important day on the calendar for the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka.” 

On top of the plaque unveiling and author Peter FitzSimon’s Peter Tobin Oration, a series of other annual Eureka Day celebrations took place across the city. 

A dawn ceremony was held at Eureka Park, while a small group also made their way to the Old Ballarat Cemetery to remember about 30 miners who lost their lives.