The Eureka Dawn Walk 2003
- cleaving to a core story
From where the Dawn Walkers gathered at the margin of the small lake at the Eureka Stockade site, the great Southern Cross on the mast the Eureka Centre both towered above and reflected back to them between the lily pads. They had assembled at 3.30am and set out by lantern light in the dark following the 3.5 km route the British soldiers took in mounting their dawn attack on the digger's stockade at the Eureka lead, Sunday 3 December 1854.
Along the way, in four different episodes, they had heard story of those events told by local actor/historian, Gerry Tobin, and in the quiet of those early hours, each had had time to reflect on the courage of the diggers. Now we stood together in the dawn light where blood was spilt 149 years ago in inner quiet. Strangers only an hour previous, we now bound in this quietness of the heart.
The special guest of the 2003 Dawn Walk, the one honoured as the occasion's Leading Light, Dr Joe Toscano, was invited to speak and bring us back to our own times and the current struggles of the common people to defend rights and liberties from the tyranny of the rich and their courtier governments.
Dr Joe is a Melbourne medical practitioner of 20 years, an active anarchist, a radical historian and the national co-coordinator of the lobby group, Defend and Extend Medicare. In defending Medicare for the ongoing ideological attacks by the neo-conservative Howard government, Dr Joe has had cause to say often and publicly that health care is not a luxury, not a charity but a right.
For his troubles the Murdoch daily newspaper in Melbourne, the Herald Sun, in the week previous had named Dr Joe as an example of a radical with long record and nefarious intentions infiltrating a well meaning but gullible citizen action group. To support the slander, the Herald Sun had published extracts for his ASIO file. Dr Joe had expressed astonishment at this unabashed sourcing and use of ASIO information to slander him, but said it was not the first time, only the first time the Herald Sun had publicly admitted being in league with the secret police. Far from being intimidated however, Dr Joe professed taking being targeted for slander by the Murdoch media as being a badge of honour.
Dr Joe is solidly built with a round face, mutton-chop whiskers, a rough-tied ponytail and no dress pretensions. The twenty years of long hours in medial practice seemed to have bequeathed him a permanent tiredness around his eyes, gentleness in voice and a patient manner; but all that was surface to his ox-like strength of conviction. He stood rooted before at the margin of the lake as if a tall tree, rooted in his sense of history, rooted in his sense of place, rooted in his sense of occasion.
Dr Joe Toscano, anarchist, radical historian and medical practitioner
"Let us remember that it was a rebellion that the British Empire suppressed when its soldiers and police attacked the Eureka stockade", Dr Joe said. "It was not, as some "nothing but" revisionist historians would have us believe, a goldfields riot of by hotheads and lawless elements agitating about tax grievances. The diggers had set up an alternative to the Colonial government based on solidarity and participatory democracy. They were mates working together, speaking truly and being true to each other, cooperating and taking local responsibility for justice and good order.
"They were quickly crushed but big changes were inspired by their actions. The Eureka rebellion is as significant to the shaping of Australia as the Paris Commune, which it preceded by 17 years, was to modern Europe. Let the inspiration of the Eureka diggers guide us yet. Let's practice their principles and stand together truly in these times and fight to defend our rights and liberties."
As master of lanterns and host, after Dr Joe had spoken I invited others to give voice to the moment. But looking around I saw people content with their quiet and all eyes were on me. What to say for closure? Breathing in, seeking inspiration; how sweet the morning air!
Graeme winds up the 2003 Eureka Dawn Walk 7 December 2003
Words came: "Feel that spirit. Feel that Eureka spirit!" and it was as if some collective G-spot had been touched: smiles, sighs and gentle affirmations of pleasure. This is what we had come for; this is what we had been seeking, some for many years, yearning but not knowing what the yearning. Now we were standing in it together under the Southern Cross.
The Committee of the Eureka Stockade Memorial Association had set up outside the Eureka Memorial Hall and were offering breakfast. The Dawn Walkers adjourned there to be their guests and to receive their comradely welcome. President Frank Williams shook my hand like an old friend; like I imagine mates at the Eureka Stockade had shook hands, friends in common cause, friends under the Southern Cross.
At 6 am Al Grassby, the former Minister for Immigration in the Whitlam Government (1972-5), historian (he co-authored Six Australian Battlefields, which, published in 1988, includes an account of Eureka) and a long time advocate for multiculturalism, gave the Dawn Oration standing in front of the Eureka monument. And not for the first time he delighted his listeners.
Al Grassby is as famous for his lairy ties and his 1960s Italian spiv look as he is for his generosity of spirit, his graciousness of manner and his whip sharp mind. Al said that Eureka is not only the beginning of the fair go' and liberal democracy in this land, it is the beginning of multiculturalism, the fair go' for all regardless of race or land of origin.
As he spoke my thoughts flew to the hapless and harmless asylum seekers, men, women and children, languishing on Australian territory and outside it, in jails built and managed by US corporations and paid for with Australian taxes. These were the victims, the suffering meat of the fear campaign that the Murdoch media contrived to win an election 2 years before and keep PM Howard in power. Already grievuosly suffering, they came to these shores and were stripped of their liberties in the name of border protection; not just another lie of the Howard government, indeed the cutting edge of its tyranny.
In the camaraderie of our Eureka commemoration, in the witness of the ancestors who stood as tall trees at Eureka, injustice burned. May it always be so.
Frank Williams and the Hon. Al Grassby
2003 Eureka Dawn Walk PhotoStory
Lanterns Hanging in Federation Square, 3 am 7 December 2003
Master lantern maker Graeme Dunstan introduces the 2003 Dawn Walk, Federation Square, 4 am 7 December
Police Guard, 2003 Dawn Walk
Gerry Tobin reads Peter Freund's script, Sunday 7 December 2003
Graeme Dunstan and Bill Clyde
Eureka Standard bearer
Putting Out the lanterns
Eureka Memorial at dawn, Sunday 7 December 2003
An Unsolicited Testimonial
Eureka Dawn Walk,
Ballarat 7th December 2003
I thought you might like to hear about one experience that I found amusing.
Friends of the 2003 Eureka Dawn Walk
I had to feel sorry for the guy making g his way a little unsteadily north along Peel St at 4.30 am after a night on the town. He must have been perturbed to see what looked like a line of glow worms as the lantern carrying walkers snaked their way quietly across Peel St from Eastern Oval.
Due to an access problem I'd had to backtrack and take a short detour from the route travelled by the main contingent. Unbeknown to the poor fellow, I was silently approaching from the south on my scooter, with a lantern swinging out in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey. As I overtook him, he was obviously startled. Turning abruptly he looked at me through glazed eyes, let out an expletive followed by "Ya scared the living shit out of me."
Well excuse me! Poor fellow.
Thank you for encouraging me to participate in the Eureka Dawn Walk 2003. It was a wonderful experience - one both my husband and I will treasure.
I wanted to be involved for many years, but wheelchair access issues seemed an insurmountable barrier. The City Council had made a commitment to address the major concern, but the works were not completed in time. A public liability insurance? Well that's another story!
However it was a great privilege to be part of the 149th Anniversary 'unofficial' walk. It really affirmed my faith in the generosity of people - 'strangers' who were only too willing to help me, my husband and my scooter negotiate a couple of tricky spots and thereby allow us to experience this wonderful occasion.
The lanterns added such atmosphere. Story teller Gerard Tobin seemed to make the historical facts and the characters so real and the other speakers reinforced the continuing need to fight against injustice What an assortment of people walked - adults children, even some young men. I don't know whether you arranged the didgeridoo player - but what a hauntingly appropriate refrain!
Thanks again for organising such a great event which attracted a good size crowd despite the limited publicity given by the media. Perhaps we will see you next year.
Graeme and Alison Smith, freelance photographer and journalist in Eureka Memorial Park, December 2003
Alison Smith, freelance photographer and journalist in Eureka Memorial Park, 3 December 2003
Daniel the nomad, former Ballarat boy, rodeo rider, raver, poet, strummer, lover seeker, 3 December 2003
Happy Jack, who claims direct descendent from the gold era Happy Jack, is a former army medic, Ballarat boy, Eureka historian, video producer, at Eureka Memorial Park 3 December 2003
Ballarat Bill Clyde has a cuppa prior to the assembling of the Dawn Walk at Federation Square 7 December 2003
Jarrod Watt, ABC Radio Ballarat producer, 8 December 2003
Kiri and Ian, two of the managers of Grainery Lane, Ballarat, 8 December 2003
Graeme and Jennifer the Maremma in Eureka Memorial park, 3 December 2003
Jennifer the Maremma honours the maytrs of the Eureka Rebellion 21 November 2003
Banner of Dr Joe Toscano and the Anarchist Media Institute at Eureka Hall, 3 December 2003
Cr Stephen Jones and Graeme Dunstan at the Eureka Memorial 3 December 2003
Graeme and Cr Stephen Jones , 3 December 2003
Graeme plays Eureka rouge, 3 December 2003
Graeme and Jennifer in Eureka Memorial Park, 3 December 2003