Good morning before we begin proceedings, I would like to acknowledge
the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the
Watharung people of the Kulin Nation. I would like to pay my respects to
the Elders past and present.
Today is about remembering those men and women who lost their lives
during, or because, of the events at the Eureka Stockade, at this place,
on this day, in 1854. It is also to remember the impact that the battle,
and surrounding events, had in shaping Australia’s democracy.
Id like to take you back, to exactly 160 years ago, and ask you to
imagine what political life was like for the average person in Australia.
First, there was no right to vote, or stand for Parliament, unless you
could meet property qualifications, which most could not.
This meant that there was taxation – and mining licence fees were a
form of taxation - without any representation in the forming of those laws
that people were required to obey.
As a woman you certainly had no right to vote, could not own property,
could not go to university, be paid the same as a man for equal work,
and in many cases could not work after marriage.
160 years ago, Chinese miners had virtually no rights at all, and were
subject to appalling acts of violence.
The rights of aboriginal people, to their land, and civic rights, was barely
a considered a sensible concept for discussion.
And the rights and needs of the very poor, the mentally ill and disabled,
single mothers and the aged, were either completely disregarded, or
managed in an ad hoc and paternalistic way, by a combination of mostly
state and church organisations.
But this was not unique! In fact, this situation was largely the state of
play in most places around the world, and had been the status quo for
the better part of 3000 years of recorded western history at least.
But how things have changed - in just 160 years!
We are here today to commemorate those who lost their lives at this
place, and celebrate the role that the Eureka Stockade played, in
changing that status quo, and starting the path, that led to universal
suffrage for non-Aboriginal men only a few years later, to be followed
by universal suffrage for non-aboriginal women in 1902. Indigenous
Australians of course, had to wait until the 1960’s for the basic right to
be considered a citizen of the nation that they had inhabited for some
60,000 years or more.
So it is against this backdrop, that the Museum of Australian Democracy
at Eureka – MADE, has been established on this very site - to celebrate
the role that the 1854 battle had in changing the status quo and forging
our path to democracy.
But MADE aims to do more than that – MADE’s vision is to put the story
of Eureka in broader political, historic and social context which has
meaning and relevance to the lives of Australians in the 21st century.
We want to make people actively think, reflect and engage with our
current social and political system, and our key target includes young
people. Let me explain why.
Most Australians today have grown up fully benefiting from the civil and
political rights that women and men who came before them had stood up
for and fought for – including those who lost their lives here at this place
160 years ago.
Yet research from the Lowy Institute, and elsewhere, consistently shows
that Australians are ambivalent about our democracy, particularly y oung
people -with 33% of 18-29 year-olds supporting the statement that ‘in
some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable’.
And yet as we speak, today, people in other parts of the world are
fighting, and dying, to gain those very rights that our predecessors at
Eureka gained for us.
Our vision at MADE is to make the Eureka Stockade, and Australian
democracy, a compelling issue in contemporary Australian society.
To do this we have become a physical and a digital museum, using
creativity and innovation, to connect history - with the present.
Our tool box includes not only compelling exhibits in M.A.D.E’s physical
displays, but also Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, computer games, video
stories and iBeacons, amongst others. We are using each and every tool
in the physical and digital toolkit to reach out and connect, empower and
engage, Australians wherever they are, particularly our young people.
Ben Chifley said that “Eureka was the first real affirmation of our
determination to be the master of our own political destiny”.
MADE aims to commemorate those who lost their lives on this site,
on this day, in 1854, in fighting for democratic rights and changing the
And just as important, our task is to inspire the next generation of
Australians to ensure that our destiny, and our democracy, is in good