More impressive still was the crowd outside waiting for the gates to open; a thousand of them or more come to participate in the Eureka150 Dawn Walk. The seventh annual Eureka Dawn Walk, this was participation three times bigger than any previous one.
Also impressive was the number of media crews. Ballarat is a provincial city only an hour from Melbourne seemingly a light year away for the national news networks. Provincial celebrations just don't news, so the big roll up of cameras and microphones from all of them at 3.30 am was all the more impressive.
Seven years ago we had set out to create an artful, moving and popular ritual for celebrating the Eureka rebellion of 1854. Here on the 150th anniversary was recognition our success. The Eureka150 Dawn Walk was being acknowledged as an event of national significance.
The presence of so much media was due to the controversy beaten up by the Murdoch owned, Melbourne daily, the Herald Sun, which had carried consecutive front page stories headlined 'Eureka Rebellion' and 'Eureka Uprising'.
The uprising and rebellion they were talking about was the supposed mounting protest against the decision by the Dawn Walk producers, Fraser McKay and I, to invite Terry Hicks, father of Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoner, David Hicks, to be the Eureka150 Dawn Walk's Leading Light.
Outraged at this affront to the US War on Terror, the Murdoch media minions sought out adverse comment starting with the local Liberal Party hack, Michael Ronaldson, and the ever ready manic mouth of Dawn Walk bane, Paul Murphy, but soon reaching out to include the Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, the federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, and the Prime Minster, John Howard. The Herald Sun even got a great, great grandson of Eureka rebel's commander in chief, Peter Lalor, to say it was "sheer lunacy".
The media storm had broken the previous Thursday and although the senior management of the City had wobbled about, we event producers had held firm to our truth and stood firm by our invitation. We watched as the beat up blow itself out and the storylines turn to support.
And here was the final affirmation: a great crowd voting with their feet.
The Ballarat Mayor, David Vendy, was there in baseball cap, jeans and joggers, self consciously keeping a low profile, come to see for himself. He had expressed no objection to Terry Hicks' participation but he was concerned about the media misconception that Hicks would physically lead the Dawn Walk with everyone else falling into step behind. The Dawn Walk had never been like that nor was it for the 150th.
Upfront were the inevitable children, Jennifer the Maremma (she loves a parade), and me, working to restrain the striders so that the parade did not string out too much. Terry Hicks walked carrying a lantern at the rear of this splendid parade of lanterns, as it moved first into Alfred Deakin Square, then through the City streets, under a bluestone viaduct, across a cricket ground and then into the night of a parkland reserve along the Yarrowee Creek.
Terry is an ordinary and humble guy who works as a repro man in an Adelaide print shop. What is remarkable, and indeed noble, about him is his determination to win a fair go for his son David, who has been held by the US military in Guantanamo Bay for near on three years, stripped of his rights as a prisoner of war and as an Australian citizen, abducted, incarcerated and tortured.
The Dawn Walk is a lantern lit telling of the Eureka story, a meditation on courage in the face of tyranny. Most choose to walk in silence, enjoying the lantern spectacle, the changing light, the scents and sounds of the morning.
All a long the route Dawn Walkers hailed Terry, coming to shake his hand and affirm him as a father doing the right thing by his son by defending of rights and liberties. Terry claimed direct descent – great grandson of stockader Henry George and150 years later and the Eureka ancestors were smiling.
We had some 450 lanterns on parade and they looked spectacular as a mass in the pre dawn dark and strung out along the path by the Yarrowee Creek. From a rise near the old open cut at Black Hill, Gordon Morrison, the new director of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, watched the spectacle of random clusterings of lanterns moving like a stream of bobbing lights along under the night trees, the tops of which framed a view of the grand Victoriana tower of the Ballarat Railway Station lit up in the distance. Artful Ballarat!
"Beautiful," he said. "Now I know what people have been so enthusiastic about."
The lantern walk followed the 3.5 km route taken by the soldiers and mounted police in their dawn attack on the stockade the rebels had built on the Eureka lead. As with previous years Peter Freund narrated the Eureka story from a script he had developed in four parts and at four different stopping places. At each place he was illuminated from either side by the light of lanterns hanging in strings of four from two 4 metre bamboo poles, which also bore Eureka banners. A sweet solo violin played as the lantern lit crowd gathered and waited for others to arrive.
In the enchantment of the lanterns, in the magic of the morning and with the charm of Peter's voice, the story went deep.
The sky was light with pastel hues by the time the Dawn Walkers arrived at Eureka Park. A choir by the edge of the ornamental lake, sang Verdi's Prisoners' Chorus as we arrived. It was here by the lake, with the great Eureka Flag of the Eureka Centre tower reflecting in its waters, that Terry Hicks was to be invited to speak about what defending rights and liberties in these times.
Walking at the end of the procession, Terry took awhile to come to the microphone and when he did it was a while before the media crews who rushed to set up in front of him and tape on their various microphones were ready. The moment the news crews were waiting for had arrived.
I introduced Terry by saying that celebrating Eureka was an evolving tradition; that the Dawn Walk was a rite only seven years old; and that as part of this had grown the tradition of each year honouring someone who is standing truly in these times defending rights and liberties. And that we were honoured to have Terry Hicks as our Leading Light.
May be I should have given more explanation for the choice, spelt out the virtues of Terry in more detail and with more persuasion, because when I stepped back from the microphone after a smattering of welcoming applause and before Terry could finish his first sentence, there came the strident voice of an interjector.
"You have hijacked this event," it said.
The voice was from a young man in his early 20s who had positioned himself behind the media scrum, a little higher up the slope of the lakeside lawn.
My first reaction was to let it pass. He had been there at the assembly and I had ignored him. But when Terry went to speak again and the interjector repeated himself and his timing, I knew I had to act. And so did the media guys! They turned about, cameramen ripping their cameras off their tripods, the soundmen grabbing their mikes to recod the interjector.
I ran around the media throng and confronted him, my face close to his and copping a blast of booze breath. A plain clothed federal police officer moved at the same instant and with me and then stood behind my left shoulder, a palpable strength of presence. From down the hill to the interjector's left side came a more tentative uniformed officer. We converged so fast that the interjector was somewhat startled and began to back peddle.
As I gently pushed him back, my right hand flat on chest, I said. "It is you who is hijacking this event." This is an insight from someone with long experience of hijacking events.
And to the federal police officer: "Thank you!" Nice to know one has a friend amongst the feds.
A thousand people, one interjector and the media was onto the interjector. My instant take was that he was a nutter, a boy, a bit drunk, a bit angry and much confused by the welter of media. The world is full of such disinherited ones and they pop up in public places. And having lived in Cullen Street, Nimbin, I have an instinct for madness.
My judgement was subsequently confirmed by the words of the young man himself, who when interviewed after the incident, confessed he really didn't know why he had said what he had said. Just felt he had to say something.
Walking back through the media throng I called to Terry: "Now let's begin again."
Terry recommenced by acknowledging the interjector respectfully and his right to speak.
Terry is not a polished public speaker, but he speaks plain truth and people listen. He had told me earlier that when he first set out on his journey of justice for his son, the journalists who interviewed him would ignore his words and put their own words in his mouth and their own spin on the story. Perseverance furthers, it seems, for when he speaks now they listen respectfully and record sympathetically, even Murdoch minions have been known he said to refuse to change text to suit their master.
Terry spoke only briefly and without notes. Standing up and speaking out, this was what he said that hit a chord with the crowd and made all our organising efforts worthwhile:
"The rights and liberties of Australians are being abrogated by the Howard government in the interests of a foreign power." Warm was the applause for Terry when he concluded.
The moment seemed to call for something more. I seized the time and the microphone to lead the crowd in a fervent Eureka oath:
Yorro! Yorro! We were standing up alive together on the blood soaked Earth of the Eureka massacre 150 summers on and the Eureka Spirit was alive and strong amongst us.
The Luncheon is a Eureka celebratory tradition now 10 years old and Terry Hicks and his brother and campaign helper, Steve, attended as my guests. Also at the table were Bodha Gwen Gould, peace flag maker of Byron Bay, Dr Jo Toscano, Melbourne medico, anarchist commentator, Eureka historian and 2003 Leading Light,and his wife Ellen, a Torres Strait Islander artist whose work was exhibited in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery earlier in the year.
The Luncheon is organised by the Eureka Stockade Memorial Association (ESMA) as a $50 a head fundraiser. In previous years it had been held in the Old Colonist Club with seating limited to about 120. This year the Luncheon was held in the Mining Exchange, seated 274 and looked splendid.
The Eureka banners lining the walls and the full sized Eureka flag hanging overhead gave the space a sense of heraldry. With the help of my friend Frame from Stawell, they had been set up the evening after the banners came in from the Diggers March (another success story). With the help of Helen and Robert Bath, we had rigged the big flag, which was on loan from maker Val d'Angere, who is a local heroine for her work restoring and mounting the original flag.
When we finished the set up, Robert stepped back to view the work and exclaimed: "Isn't it a beautiful flag!"
Seeing it framed by the lines of banners and the arches of the steel roof trusses, it was as if we were seeing its art for the first time. Yes it is a beautiful flag. It is no wonder that the Australian Flag Society, the people passionate in defence of retaining the Union Jack in the national flag, see it as the enemy.
What was notable about this year's Eureka commemorations was the close cooperation amongst the different organising groups. In particular the transition of the Mining Exchange from lantern factory, to Dawn Walk assembly area to Eureka Luncheon had gone very smoothly.
The Luncheon is an event which models itself on the manners and liberality of a 19 century gentleman's club or officers mess: that is, a dress up affair where one sits down to a served meal at a table with white cloth and full cutlery, drinks wine, converses and respectfully receives speeches. The organisers pride themselves on the disparate groups and interests that are embraced by the Luncheon,
When Frank Williams, president of ESMA, opened the Luncheon he drew attention to our diversity welcoming the former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret, the Mayor David Vendy, the local federal member, Catherine King, the various esteemed academic historians, the Children of Eureka, the Connelly Society (Irish radicals) and the anarchists (my table).
Dr Joe was chuffed at this recognition and Frank Williams' warm personal welcome to him.
"This is good. They now regard me as part of the Ballarat Eureka cultural landscape," he observed.
As well he ought be recognised because he has organised commemorations at the Eureka Memorial 4 am on 3 December for the past four years. This year his (Peoples) Dawn Commemoration had taken place prior to the big bucks, big production, official Dawn Commemoration which was organised by the Victorian Dept of Premiers and Cabinet Major Events Unit and started at 6 am.
The former was intimate (50 people), participatory and satisfying; the latter was a grander event, attended by about 2000 people (biggest ever for a Eureka Dawn commemoration) but one that never quite engaged as a ritual. The ceremony was designed as a consumer event and offered no opportunity for participation apart from listening to choirs, which though many and massed, were a bit flat. Mind you the light of the rising sun looked spectacular as it slid down and illuminated the Eureka mast.
Dr Joe used the opportunity of the Luncheon to distribute a couple of his anarchist tracts, one was his excellent essay of the significance of Eureka in radical tradition of Australian politics (direct democracy, direct action, solidarity and internationalism); the other an essay on why the Victoria Police should apologise for their role in the Eureka massacre of 1854 (a murderous police riot).
The latter interest had arisen from the previous Eureka Luncheon when the Victorian Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon had delivered the keynote address (it was the sesquicentenary of the Victoria Police). I had startled and scandalised (but only for a little while) the occasion by asking in a loud voice:
Out of Eureka solidarity, Leading Light Dr Joe, made an across the table commitment to follow the issue up. And he had with letters to the Police Commissioner during the year and two protest gatherings outside the Victorian Police HQ in the two weeks leading up to Eureka.
As a result, even Ballarat's Rural Press owned, oh so straight, conservative and conscientious daily newspaper, The Courier, was moved to liberality and had reported both the protests and also pre-publicised Dr Joe's Dawn Commemoration.
Further to confirm his new Eureka media credibility, the Fairfax owned Melbourne daily newspaper, The Age, had published an excellent letter by Dr Joe comparing concurrent suppression by the Queensland Police of the Palm Island rioters with that of the Eureka stockaders.
Throughout the Luncheon people came to our table to introduce themselves to Terry Hicks and express support for his campaign. The first was local Labor MP, Catherine King, a woman of deep integrity and genuine goodwill. The next was Cr Steve Chaytor, my friend from Campbelltown City Council, who was then Gough Whitlam's personal secretary and later to be same (if only for a little while) for Mark Latham, then Leader of the Opposition.
Terry left Ballarat feeling way, way happy with the reception he had received in Ballarat and with the national media attention he was able to focus on his campaign to win a fair got for his son. When he and his brother rose to leave, the people at the tables all about applauded his progress. On the way out he was introduced to Gough Whitlam and received a blessing from the grand old man.
During the Luncheon I spoke with Mayor David Vendy and asked how he was feeling about the Hicks media, which had in effect hijacked the Eureka150 media which Premiers Department has spent so much of State taxes setting up.
"No complaints," he said and gesturing to the Eureka banners, "You know what you are doing." And later came an email: "Sincerely, thank you."
This was most gratifying to hear because 12 months earlier we had been at odds. After the City had withdrawn funding from the 2003 Dawn Walk, I had produced it anyway as a rebel event, proudly and publicly public liability insurance free. (See www.peacebus.com/Eureka/DawnWalk2003.html).
My rebel stance had been followed through into Eureka150 preparations and it had allowed me to do a lot of effective cultural organising and to contribute artfully to a number of successful events without ever attending a meeting that talked about risk management or public liability insurance. For the Dawn Walk my partner Fraser had carried that burden.
Now even the cultural managers responsible for the 2003 decision to cut Dawn Walk funding, people I had castigated as carven and incompetent, were telling me well done and that they understood (and valued) the work.
Like Terry Hicks I was observing how perseverance with the truth furthers.
For me the Eureka150 effort had been a 6 week long daily commitment as nomad artist in residence – flag maker, agitator lantern maker and cultural animateur in the provincial city of Ballarat. The work was done in companionship with many friends, but in particular with Willem Brugman, Graham Bird, Catherine Hassall and her three-month-old daughter Maya Thiango and as a collaboration between Culture Lab International and Peacebus.com.
My association with Culture Lab was less than three years old but in that time we had collaborated artfully on three commemorative events of national significance: the Centenary of Federation Parade, Sydney 2001, the thirtieth anniversary of the Aquarius Festival, Nimbin 2003 and now Eurka150. When we first met they were based at Yellow Rock in the Lower Blue Mountains, near Sydney, but now Catherine and William had relocated to Snake Valley Culture Camp near Ballarat.
Graham Bird is a former academic and cofounder of the influential Social Ecology course at Hawkesbury Ag College (later Nepean University), but now struggling with Parkinson's Disease and the ups and downs of dopamine, came south and rented a house in the Ballarat near the CBD so that he could be near and of service. Webster Street runs east west between the CBD and Lake Wendourie by the hospital precinct and is considered one of the better addresses in address conscious Ballarat (or so the Mayor told me!).
The house soon became a Culture Lab cultural crossroads with a stream of visitors coming from overseas and interstate. In the pocket sized backyard we erected a tarp shelter and in the front, a pair of Peacebus banners, one Eureka, the other Dharma. There we proclaimed it Eureka Rebel hHeadquarters and there we cooked up a Eureka Rising Rebel Festival.
At 65 Webster Street, I spent my days, blessed to have free use of the houses amenities and the Telstra copper, emailing, web working, meeting visitors, feasting and organising. Sometimes when the weather was cold and wet, and it often was, Jennifer Maremma and I slept there.
Weather permitting (and that's often a big ask in Ballarat) I preferred camping out at Nuggetty Dam in the Nerrina Forest, an old diggings about 10 minutes out of town. There I would meditate on frog choruses, wind and the reflections on the water of the morning sun in the treetops, warm my heart with mantra and invoke the blessings of the deities and the ancestors. These fair weather, languid mornings were soul sustenance to me.
Willem, a Dutch national, 15 years in Australia and new to the story, made the Eureka rebellion the subject of his Culture Lab research and began collecting documents. Turns out there are a lot of them about and soon a trestle table was stacked high and Willem tending to them, sorting, filing and moving them about like a mother cat her litter.
In the lead up to Eureka150 the City of Ballarat advertised that funding was available for community based Eureka projects. Willem, a graduate of the Dutch national Theatre Academy and one time director of the English Speaking Theatre of Amsterdam, had proposed a community participation theatre project at Grainery Lane, which is a bar in the heart of town with a performance space out the back.
He had asked for $10K to animate the space "performatively" during the Eureka150 celebrations with local musicians and actors; he was granted $2K, which it is not enough to scratch oneself theatrically in these days. When this is sized up beside $12K for 45 minutes on stage that the Premiers Dept organisers in Melbourne paid individual imported musicians at their Echoes of Freedom World Music Festival, one understands the depth of the contempt the cultural overseers of the Eureka150 celebrations had for local culture and local cultural development.
The mission of our Eureka Rising culture collaboration, as presented to the Mayor of Ballarat David Vendy at a meeting on 30 October and later confirmed in an email, was to animate the Eureka150 commemorations with a Eureka Rising Rebel Festival which aimed to be artful, participatory and provocative. Our object was, we said, "was not to offend but rather to generate interest, get local folk talking, challenged and engaged."
David Vendy shook our hands warmly as Willem and I left his office: "I understand what you are doing. Please help make the Eureka150 celebrations interesting and challenging."
Two Eureka Club Nights at Grainery Lane Friday 3 and Saturday 4 December. The first of these involved music and movement performance organised by my Dawn Walk colleague, Fraser Mackay; the second had the contribution of Combo la Revelacion, one of Australia's premier Latin Big Bands and supplied courtesy of Premiers Department.
Value for money, hey? By persevering with their vision and commitment to Culture Lab as engaged culture making, Willem and Graham had worked cultural miracles in Ballarat. For the Culture Lab report on the above see www.culturelab.org.au
From the outset Willem could see that an annual Eureka Rebel Festival would be a boon to the artistic, cultural and political life of Ballarat and went about the work of creating the first one with dignity and humility, doing best he could with what he had. Part of what he had was an international avant-garde theatre perspective having worked as a theatre director in Amsterdam, New York, Rome and Sydney.
Being new to Ballarat was of course a major obstacle to gaining understanding and support for their Eureka cultural work. To add degrees of difficulty for Willem and Graham, Culture Lab is an advanced concept and Willem's ways different. Willem dresses Bohemian informal but he speaks with a Dutch accented formality and a politeness that the smart operator mind of the modern cultural manager takes for irrelevance if not daftness.
To add more degrees to his difficulties Willem was a new father and his partner and here-to-fore full time Culture Lab collaborator, Catherine Hassall, was naturally full time preoccupied with nursing their 3 month old daughter, the smiling and socially aware, Maya Thiango. Willem was not only juggling limited financial resources, he was also only juggling his family time.
Maya Thiango under the tarp at 65 Webster St, 18 November 2004
The funded project obliged Willem to attend a lot of meetings, some conducted by the unpaid cultural managers of the Grainery Lane theatre space and others conducted by the paid cultural managers of the City. It was unlikely that he and his Eureka Rising Project aspirations were ever heard let alone understood at any of these meetings. Yet he succeeded in bringing a lot of cultural activity into being. Not that many people noticed; and certainly not the City cultural managers: unsupported in the beginning, unsupported in the middle and unsupported in the end.
But this is the way it is for cultural movers. Cultural managers get salaries but they cannot, and do not, make culture move. New manifestations of culture come into being in liminal zones, at the margins and in the cracks of the dominant paradigm, and usually in collaborations by marginal and cracked people, and in a time before any value, dollar or otherwise, is recognised in the work. This is a land beyond and before managerialism and it sustains no mortgages and no careers in public or corporate service.
Few are they who commit to the creative work of cultural development. Rarely are they recognised, rarely are their praises sung. Willem is one such and I salute him as a brother.
Because of my commitments to lantern making Dawn Walk commitments, I did get closely involved in the Grainery Lane project but I was a close and frequent witness to the frustrations and persevering efforts of Willem and Graham.
One of the delights of my Culture Lab Eureka150 collaboration were the coffee/black beer/joint dialogues with Willem under the tarp out back of 65 Webster Street. A gracious host, Will would use the opportunity of my listening to give words to the confusion of social interaction, local and cyber, of which he and Catherine and now Maya Thiango were the hub.
After his sessions with the cultural managers of Grainery Lane and the City, Willem would come back dejected. Never once was he asked: "How is it going? How can we help?" The City meetings were about salaried people asking unsalaried people to do things so that they could tick a box, write a running order and cover their arses. Risk management was their overarching concern.
Willem Brugman reflects on another meeting with cultural managers meeting, 24 November 2004
The specially contracted professionals in PR and events management who were supposed to help were Melbourne based, but in each case the help proved illusory. On learning of a contractor, Willem would set up a meeting in Ballarat and they would come, go away promising back up and never be heard of again because the contract had expired.
To get community support for the project, Willem and Graham had advertised a public meeting in September and followed up with weekly meetings into October. The net was cast wide and it brought in a few interesting characters and good ideas, the Wendouree Public School project for example. But few were the willing and able hands who gathered to prepare the Eureka Rebel Festival.
In the course of one of these Eureka Rebel HQ back yard dialogues, Willem described the project as 'poor theatre' and explained that maybe the ship of fools was an appropriate metaphor because on the path we activists walked in the liminal zones of cultural creation, along with the pioneers and prophets, and walking beside us as companions, with time on their hands and maybe the capacity to help, were the frail, the wounded, the dispossessed and the mad.
This can be discouraging if the expectations for project outcomes are high. At some point, the grassroots cultural organiser looks around in despair and thinks: "With helpers such as these what can be expected?"
But it was ever thus. We culture movers do best we can knowing the garden we work is weeds and flowers, good seed and bad; sometimes it is fruitful and sometimes not. But suffering and chaos is the real world, the managerial dreams of a better world of air-conditioned order is the illusion. By grounding our work in the suffering of the world, the work becomes a journey amongst real people in real time. And more … it becomes revelatory. It yields personal insight, new friends, new cultural depth and new understanding plus many cultural surprises.
This standing and organising amongst the poor of course has fine traditions in the Left. Some would call it a Holy Path. It is and the Buddha did likewise. Within Buddhist practice, this work is known Engaged Buddhism and it is about being in the world, seeing things as they truly are, and engaging it as a practice of Buddhist philosophy and morality.
The first rebel project organised was the Eureka Women's Sewing Circle: a storytelling circle of volunteers who aimed to sew up 50 Eureka banners to dress various Eureka150 events. These banners were 50 cm wide, 2 meters deep, designed as a cut out section of the Flag, a white cross and two stars, the centre and the bottom ones, on a blue background.
Like the Byron Peace Flag Sewing Circle of the previous September, (see www.peacebus.com/PeaceFlags/2004SewingCircle.html ) the Eureka Women's Sewing Circle was likewise a success (see www.peacebus.com/Eureka/SewingCircle2004.html). It not only delivered a bunch of beautiful banners, it also affirmed and extended friendships and generated a wave of good media and local goodwill for Eureka150.
The Member for Ballarat, Catherine King MP, with Eureka Women's Sewing Circle 21 November 2004
To pay for materials the banners were pre-sold to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (10 for $400 including poles) and to ESMA (30 including 10 with screen printed logo for $300). Economically irrational, maybe, but then the project was not about profit. Rather it was about community cultural development where joy and pride in community is a value beyond and before dollars.
The rebel part of the Eureka Banner project failed to register. Culture Lab was literally cut out of the picture by the local newspaper even though, Willem Brugman, Catherine, baby Maya Thiango and Graham Bird were there for the first photo opportunity and dressed up in their Culture Lab costumes. Willem was also there at the final session when I was occupied with lantern making and he helped array the banners for another photo opportunity, The Age this time, which failed to print either photo or story.
The Eureka banner project was much appreciated and by many. Frank Williams hailed it from the Eureka Memorial while winding up the Digger March as "a great community project".
At the time Frank was standing on the Memorial in a triumphant dazzle of blue and white banners, some thirty of them arrayed about it. Participants in the Diggers March had carried the banners from Bakery Hill and when they arrived in the Park we had used rubber strips cut from inner tubes of car tyres to tie them to steel posts ready and waiting there thanks to the help of my friends Frame and John Peace.
The Eureka Memorial at the conclusion of the Diggers March, 4 December 2004
The Memorial looked splendid. And splendid too had been the Diggers March for the banners gave it height and form. The banner design emphasised a white cross and from a distance the storytelling pilgrimage (it was hardly a march) looked like a medieval religious procession. All the more appropriate for the narrator, Professor John Moloney, author of definitive history, Eureka, and long time supporter of Eureka celebrations, is a devout Roman Catholic who aims to make sacred the memory of the blood sacrifice at Eureka.
Apart from hanging a Eureka flag or two from the cannon barrels, few Eurekaphiles seem interested in the challenge of dressing the Memorial for special events.
For example, the CFMEU organised their union picnic in Eureka Park for Friday 3 December and some local members went on strike to be there. All day union members, their wives and children occupied the Eureka Memorial and clambered about its blue stone decks and steps.
The Eureka Memorial on the morning of 3 December 2004. That's an orginal Building Labourers' Federation Eureka flag in the foreground.
Some unionists came early took part in a social do in the Memorial Hall and camped over night. At dawn on Eureka commemoration morning the monument was decorated with two braziers, a litter of empty cans and stubbies, a sway of all night stayer drunks, the ear offending sounds of drunkenness and the nose offending smell of stale beer.
As we set up Dr Joe's banner "Reclaim the Radical Tradition of Eureka" by the Memorial at 4 am Friday 3 December, Joe, ever the teacher, asked: "What is the curse of the working class?"
The Eureka Park banners on the morning of 3 December 2004.
"Grog," we early dawn rememberers all agreed. It is a fact of history that on the night before the Government attack a mystery consignment of rum had been delivered to the Eureka diggers and this had contributed to their down fall.
My Stawell friend Frame and my Byron Bay friend Bodha Gwen helped me get the banners rigged at Bakery Hill for the start of the Diggers March. Each banner was mounted on a lightweight 4.2 m bamboo pole and all the day before I had laboured to get the poles and banners assembled. We had wondered whether there would be enough willing hands to carry the banners, but we were not disappointed; the Diggers March participants proved very eager to carry them.
BodhaGwen, Frame and Josh rig Eureka banners for the Diggers March of 3 December 2004.
Eleven of the Eureka banners were also rigged on the Lydiard Street balcony of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery for the opening of the Eureka150 national touring exhibition, Eureka Revisited -A Contest of Memories, on Wednesday 24 November. The flag array was eye catching and celebratory and Gordon Morrison, the new Gallery Director mounting his first exhibition in Ballarat, was warm in thanking us for our art services back up and support.
Eureka banners outside the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery of 4 December 2004.
The job was accomplished with the help of my lantern making and Dawn Walk producing colleagues, Fraser Mackay and Jo Foley, and also John Peace, a former Peacebus companion and fellow nomad who had come early to Ballarat so that he might lend a hand. More Eureka spirit, we replied to Gordon, direct action, helping each other make the Eureka150 an artful success.
The Banner project succeeded on many levels: it produced lots of great visuals, lots of good media, lots of goodwill and lots of opportunity for hands on participation.
The first Eureka Rising Rebel Festival public event took place in association with a Soapbox Democracy Forum, outside the Cato Conference Centre on the St Helen's campus on Friday 26 November. It was a protest against the high fees being charged to attend the Eureka150Releasing the Spirit of Democracy Conference inside - $660 a head.
Six anarchists, a dog and their friends outside the Releasing the Spirit of Democracy Conference, University of Ballarat, 26 November 2004.
On the official Eureka150 program it was a high profile academic wank, funded by Premiers Depart, hosted by the University of Ballarat and organised by a contractor calling herself Organised Success. Keynote speakers included Peace Prize winner, Ramos Hortes, and high profile academics such as Professor Geoffrey Blainey and also lesser known ones such as Dr Joe Toscano. The premier of Victoria himself, former Ballarat boy, Steve Bracks, was to be there to open it.
What kind of democracy is it that is not accessible to the poor and does not include the poor? we asked. In a time when democracy has been hijacked by the corporate rich, (remember the re-elections of proven liars and war criminals, Howard and Bush, were recent memories), the opportunity for rebel theatre was too good to miss.
The protest was organised in collaboration with big bearded bikie and local anarchist, John Lawrence, whom I had met the previous Eureka while he was posting Ballarat for Dr Joe Toscano's Reclaim the Radical Tradition dawn commemoration event. From the start, he had doubts about the event drawing a crowd even though he had plastered Ballarat with A4 black on white posters reading: Direct Democracy.
John Laurence addresses the Direct Democracy Forum outside the Releasing the Spirit of Democracy Conference, University of Ballarat, 26 November 2004.
"It will be the usual suspects," he had warned, meaning him and a handful of mates from the Shearers Union.
But when a protest event has poetry and art, for me the numbers attending are not important. Presence is. And so is anticipation of presence. In these two is the culture moving power of the events' theatre.
In the lead up I made a point of contacting the Democracy Conference hosts to let them know we were coming, starting at the top with the Vice Chancellor Kerry Cox. I got no response to my emails to the VC or the Deputy VC but I soon had a call from Organised Success. Heidi was eager to help by way of discounts and advice about special sessions free and open to the public which had been hastily organised to head of criticism.
She told me a protest on the lawns outside "would not be appropriate".
I responded by telling her that: "I didn't care whether she thought it appropriate or not, the protest would certainly happen and the sooner there was dialogue about peaceful crowd management, the better." She hung up abruptly, my passionately expressed intention, a cat amongst her pigeons.
At a pre-Eureka150 event at Australian Catholic University, Ballarat, I happened to meet Professor Cox in person and I raised the matter. A man of natural wit and urbanity, the managerial responsibilities of his corporatised university had brought dark brooding bags to his eyes and weariness to his statue. Polite to me at first, he recalled the emails but didn't want to know about it.
Like Heidi he referred me to the special discounts and open access sessions. But when I persisted he walked away dismissing our protest event as "democracy under a gumtree".
The phrase grabbed my imagination and I had a vision of a koala as drawn by cartoonist Patrick Cooke addressing the Conference from a forked branch. Professor Cox must have noted my whimsy for he corrected himself and amended the phrase at once to "democracy up a gum tree." Too late!
To give the event some visual presence I painted up a new banner (240 cm wide by 180 deep), a Eureka Southern Cross with the words: "Reinvent Democacry/Peacebus.com". I did the layout and painting during the Standing Truly Bush Dharma retreat weekend under a tarp near the fire, making art and listening the Dharma as taught by the Venerable Santitthito. (See www.peacebus.com/StandingTruly/)
The url, peacebus.com, was prominent and using protest actions as an opportunity to advertise my website is one of my alternative media strategies. It gets my website noticed, but more important it gives depth to the protest action: depth both in terms of a referral to further information about the issue and the action; and also depth in terms of history for the image and the story of the event gets recorded there, becomes part of a larger unfolding story.
John Laurence wanted protestors in position by 7.30 am and he was there with six of his mates when John Peace and I rolled up at 8 am. The University security had allocated a protest ground directly outside the Cato Centre but would not allow Happy Wheels to draw up near it and unload.
This pissed me off because John and I had to carry poles, pickets and flags and tea making gear, from a100 metres away. So there was a bit of argy bargy between me and the plain clothed federal police officer who seemed to be there as an enforcer for the University security. Indeed I was argy enough to cause him to get security to call the local police in anticipation of having me forcibly removed. This is called pushing the limits and getting noticed.
John Peace and I took 30 minutes to set up the Eureka banners but when done the space looked spectacular and there was no way the conference participants could fail to notice us. John Laurence had even built a small riser for the speaker and marked it "soapbox". We took turns mounting the soapbox and practicing our oratory, addressing our small company, the security guards and any of the participants who cared to listen.
When the VIPs arrived they were a stream of suits, a migration of eels from air-conditioned limos to air-conditioned conference centre. Obliged to walk by us and our protest, they did so in sombre dignity with eyes averted, looking straight ahead or cast down, and we invisible to them as the poor always are to the rich and the powerful - until the poor get angry and organised. Wake up!
The most splendid suit of all adorned Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks. The suit was dark, almost black in colour and of an Italian double-breasted cut and it made the wearer look like a Mafia don if not an undertaker. Because ears cannot be so easily turn off, John Lawrence and I engaged the ears as they went by with questions asked in voices loud enough for all the microphones present to hear.
"Are you going to be corporate courtier all your life, Mr Bracks? Democracy that does not include and protect the poor is no democracy at all." And so on.
Artfully occupying public place, speaking up and speaking out, and enjoying each other doing it, is a reward enough for the protest organising effort. But it is also movement building in that it builds the capacity to organise, the courage to be visible and it extends networks of association. In short small actions are not to be devalued: they build cultural confidence and train in protest skills.
Troy aka "Happy Jack", a candidate in the concurrent local government elections, dresses up for the Direct Democracy Forum outside the Releasing the Spirit of Democracy Conference, University of Ballarat, 26 November 2004.
If the wind of a butterflies wing can set in motion a chain causes and effects that result in tornadoes in Florida, who can knows what subtle influences may be set in motion vast social changes? We can only try, do best we can and be persevering.
Democracy under a gum tree was how our protest looked and how it felt. In the shade of a sugar gum, I set up the tea making facilities of Happy Wheels and we brewed up, shared tea mugs, a joint, and talked about things and got to know each other. We took group pics and welcomed and engaged the participants who came out to us during the breaks.
Dr Joe Toscano was one of those and he climbed on the soapbox and affirmed us with a generous spirit. He also gave us summary of his Democracy Conference paper, a remembrance of the radical tradition of politics asserted by the diggers of 1854: direct democracy, direct action, solidarity and internationalism.
Dr Joe Toscano addresses the Direct Democracy Forum outside the Releasing the Spirit of Democracy Conference, University of Ballarat, 26 November 2004.
Ken Mansell, who was a Melbourne based student radical from the Vietnam War era, was also one of the lesser presenters at the Democracy Conference and he too came and joined us. Sitting in the shade of the sugar gum he showed me his historical research of those days, research that included references to me at the University of NSW and quotes from Tharunka. A blast from the past!
The Democracy Conference organisers had of course called up a swarm of media but the various crews of TV and print media, like the VIP suits, ignored us as they came by. In particular The (Ballarat) Courier reporters walked past our colourful set up, deliberately not noticing it, nose in the air. Seems they have a nose for reputable local news and we did not smell right.
ABC Radio Ballarat however picked up on our media and saw the humour and poetry in our protest. Producer, Jarrod Watt, had rung me just as I arrived on site to get the news.
"How many," he wanted to know.
"Six anarchists and a dog," I replied, the dog being Jennifer.
He loved it and set up a live cross interview for later in the morning using those words as a leader.
In truth we were not all anarchists: Bill Clyde from the local Greens was there and so too John Morgan of the Shearers Union who is more a social democrat. Our common ground was the demonstrable failure of representative democracy in these times to protect the poor from the piracy and tyranny of the rich.
Direct democracy means local control and local decision-making, delegated authority as opposed to rule by so-called representative forums of far away power elites. It is seen as way to go to reclaim the power to govern which is invested in the people by the Australian Constitution. Ken Mansell however was advocating the word 'democracy' be dropped as abused and unredeemable.
In the midst of all this dialogue, ABC Radio Ballarat broadcaster, Dominic O'Brien, rang on my mobile phone and interviewed me live before a listening audience of 150,000 regionally.
It was all done with good humour and Dom gave me an opportunity to express my concerns about the hijack of democracy by the rich. We talked about the sartorial elegance of, Premier Bracks: "Looks like a corporate CEO to me," I observed.
To round off, Dom asked how would I organise a Democracy Conference.
"Free and under a gumtree," I responded without hesitation. Thank you, Professor Cox.
With the City now sponsoring the Dawn Walk again, we producers had access to the old Mining Exchange for the lantern-making preparations once more. It's lofty steel trusses support an arched corrugated iron roof and, although the acoustics are echo-ey, (Jennifer's bark would resonate deafeningly through the entire hall), it is a grand space in which to be working.
That the lantern production went so smoothly is a tribute to Fraser's organising. But it also recognises that the Dawn Walk in its seventh year is a familiar path we walk together. There was no major difference between the events we produced in 2002 and 2004 except the numbers participating and the number ancillaries involved (crowd wardens, fire extinguishers, first aid attendants and so) mandated by the involvement of Events Ballarat and their (costly) risk management obsessions.
This year we had a paid assistant, Jo Foley, an artist in her own right and a former part time employee of the Gallery.
Lantern Makers for the Eureka150 Dawn Walk, Graeme, Jo and Fraser with Jennifer in the Mining Exchange,
23 November 2004
Some 12 different school groups (about 25 at a time) came to us booked in via the Gallery's education program and we set them to work making the lantern frames, silk screen printing the logos, wiring and papering.
This year we introduced plastic tube jointing of the bamboo skewer lantern frames and this meant the making of the lantern frames was more child friendly (less hot melt glue). With the problem solving skills of Jo, Fraser and myself on the case, this change in production technique happened very smoothly and we were able to mass-produce in excess of 50 octahedron lanterns each working day.
Lantern making with school groups in the Mining Exchange, 1 December 2004
Backed up by a viewing to the original flag and the Eureka art collection n the Gallery, Eureka storytelling is also part of the experience offered to the school excursion groups. And I am the storyteller.
The practice of telling the Eureka story to schoolchildren over seven years has made me quite accomplished. Usually told in two parts with lantern making ion between, the first part introduces and sets the context for the rebellion; the second part tells of the savagery of the battle and the police riot; of the pikeman's dog and the immediate outcomes of the blood sacrifice, including in particular the introduction of the Miners Right.
Story telling and lantern making with a school group in the Mining Exchange, 1 December 2004
The Miners Right was a major reform. It gave the holder (anyone that applied) the right to claim a parcel of land, build a house, plant a garden, dig a hole called a mine, and vote!
This was the first time the poor of the Colony of Victoria had title to land. Here-to-fore only the rich squatters and the State had the right to own land, huge tracts of it stolen from the Aboriginals. Most of Ballarat and indeed country Victoria was settled on Miners Right and the title was only dissolved and transferred to freehold in the 1960s.
Some of the kids have tears in their eyes when they hear about the pikeman's dog crying his little heart out. I round off by saying this is the beginning of the uniquely Australian concept of the 'fair go'.
"Don't let yourself be bullied," I say. "It's unAustralian."
"And don't let your friends be bullied. Stand by each other truly and defend your rights and liberties."
The children (teachers and the accompanying parents too) love this story and they leave the Mining Exchange with bright eyes, a new generation of Eureka rebels.
And sometimes one has to walk this talk and it happened for me after the Eureka150 Dawn Walk.
The Walk was all packed up, Professor Weston Bates' fine Dawn Oration complete and I was walking through Eureka Park to join my friends in a breakfast picnic of coffee, chocolate and fine liqueurs, when I noticed two uniformed officers standing over a man who I had noticed earlier lying on the grass, resting in the morning sun.
I went over and stood by watching as the man (late thirties, gappy teeth) was obliged to empty his bag on the grass. The contents made plain his poverty.
I guessed him to be a homeless one who had probably come for the Dawn Walk and/or its free breakfast. I took offence at what I saw to be police harassment of the poor and the homeless… in Eureka Park and on Eureka Sunday.
I asked the stranger if he was feeling okay about emptying his bag and, with me as witness, he began to proclaim his indignation. No!
The policed officers said they were investigating a complaint about a stolen bag and warned me off.
The bag was newish but it would have cost about $10 new in a discount store. And who would be complaining about a stolen bag at 6.30am on a Sunday morning?
This was a make work excuse, harassment and humiliation of homeless was the real intent. If the poor cannot rest in peace in Eureka Park, People's Park on Eureka Sunday, where may they abide?
I suggested the police officers have more respect for Eureka and leave the park at once.
They said they would call their Sergeant. I said go for it and told the stranger to come with me to the picnic. He was pleased to do so.
Ten minutes later another patrol car arrived and with it, a grumpy Sergeant, who with her embarrassed officers, confronted me in the witness of my picnicking friends.
She warned me not to interfere with police in the performance of their duties and threatened to arrest me.
The grumpy police sergeant confronting Graeme in Eureka Park on Eureka Sunday, 5 December 2004
"Try it on!" I exclaimed knowing that such an action would blow up in her face big time. The Herald Sun headlines flashed before my eyes: "Eureka lantern maker arrested!"
The tension in the air was broken by my friend, Bodha Gwen, feeder of the homeless of Byron Bay, saying: "Excuse me please Graeme may I have the keys to Happy Wheels."
She was thinking of the immediate future welfare of herself and Jennifer the Maremma. It made me laugh iside and i was able to back off from the confrontation. I took her photo instead. She offered a smile for a second but I declined.
Just then a stranger arrived at the scene, a Unionist, who had also been watching the police, and he too took issue with them and I was able to back off.
Embarrassed police officers harrass the homeless in Eureka Park on Eureka Sunday, 5 December 2004
Embarrassed and witnessed, the police continued the search but soon left the park and the homeless one unarrested.
And so I was able to get on with picnicking and organising for the Eureka Luncheon set up, my fiery defence of the poor earning me new respect amongst my Eureka peers.
The Herald Sun media beat up on the invitation to Terry Hicks to be Leading Light of the Eureka150 Dawn Walk broke on the morning of Thursday 2 December with their front page screaming: "EUREKA REBELLION Father of accused terrorist David Hicks asked to lead historic march". The associated photo was one of young David Hicks in army fatigues learning to use a grenade launcher.
Front page of the Herald Sun 2 December 2004.
The author, Murdoch journalist Mark Butler, had rung me at 6.30 pm the previous evening. At my prompting ABC Radio Ballarat had broadcast a phone interview of Terry Hicks earlier that morning and Butler had picked up the story from the ABC Radio website. Butler interviewed me by phone at length while paced about outside an Indian take away in Sturt St.
I explained the background to the Leading Light honorific but he wanted to know whether I thought it was politicising the event to ask such a strident critic of the federal government to lead the Walk.
"We are celebrating a rebellion. If the Eureka Stockade wasn't political, what is?" I replied. "We are still about defending rights and liberties."
"But don't you think it controversial?" he persisted.
"Defending rights and liberties is always controversial," I said. "Controversy can only add spice to the Eureka150 celebrations."
Right on! He hung up and with alacrity set about generating controversy by phoning around and finding quotable people to say quotable things in opposition, starting with former local federal member, Michael Ronaldson, a Liberal now pensioned off in the Senate. Ronaldson had no previous association with the Dawn Walk and to my knowledge had never participated.
Yet he was moved to say: "It is an absolute disgrace. It is outrageously stupid and should be withdrawn immediately. There is total angst amongst in Ballarat about this. People are absolutely furious. This will set the Eureka cause back three decades."
Page 4 of the Herald Sun 2 December 2004.
Yet he was moved to say: "It is an absolute disgrace. It is outrageously stupid and should be withdrawn immediately. There is total angst amongst in Ballarat about this. People are absolutely furious. This will set the Eureka cause back three decades."
One wonders what Eureka cause he has in mind. May be it's the enduring cause of the rich to deny stories of people's rebellions and keep their history obscure and irrelevant. Whatever, after this first comment he was quoted no more on the issue.
Up until that day the Herald Sun had been very low key about Eureka150 publicity, but now with its teeth set on the Hicks story and the rest of the metropolitan based corporate media jumped to join the feeding frenzy.
It was 7 am Thursday 2 December and I was camped out at Nuggetty Dam when I got a call and learned of the headline from a Channel Seven News crew who coming to Ballart and wanting an interview. When I got to the Mining Exchange at 9 am, Les from the Gallery arrived panting (he had run all the way) to say that Gordon Morrison wanted to see me urgently.
There was Gordon looking wasted, slumped in a chair, the same Gordon who only the day before had been triumphant and confident from the successful opening of his Eureka Revisited exhibition. Mayor David Vendy, it seems, had denied all knowledge of the Hicks invitation and shifted the blame to Gordon. The new CEO Richard Hancock, besieged with media calls, was also on Gordon's case and Gordon only a beginner in the Gallery director's job.
The invitation of Terry Hicks had been decided 9 months earlier and it had been discussed with both Gordon and Mayor Vendy. My partner Fraser and I regarded the choice of Leading Light as ours to make: we, the creators and producers of the Lantern Walk and we, the workers. Many emails had been exchanged on the matter and we had made it clear to Terry Hicks, Gordon and Vendy that the invitation came from us and that we would pay the expenses of Terry Hick's visit from our own monies.
Why Terry Hicks? In the wrong army at the wrong place at the wrong time, whatever, David Hicks is a soldier who has been denied his rights as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention, and as an Australian citizen. Terry Hicks is a father standing up and speaking out for a fair go for his son. I would do likewise if it were my son. You too. When the rights and liberties of the least of us are protected, the rights and liberties of all of us are protected.
I had checked out the website (www.fairgofordavid.com), read him quoted in the press and talked to him by phone. It was a bonus for me to learn from Terry that apart from being a courageous and conspicuous defender of rights and liberties in these times, he was the great, great grandson of a Eureka stockader, named George Henry Hicks.
In my media releases I was pleased to name Terry as father of the century. Given the new powers of secret detention given ASIO and the Federal Police by the Howard governments, it is reasonable to assume that Terry is the first of many fathers who will in this century be bearing witness for sons snatched away by agents of government (ours and others), stripped of their liberties, incarcerated and tortured.
Gordon expressed concern that the beat up would encourage nutters to disrupt the Dawn Walk. Indeed the Herald Sun had quoted a high profile Eureka nutter, Paul Murphy, as saying he would tag along behind Hicks with a megaphone. This was the same Paul Murphy, who over the past 5 years had collected five different intervention orders for the manic abuse he likes to dump on Eureka organisers. He would be breaking an intervention order even being in Ballarat for Eureka150.
Gordon gently suggested we find ways to dis-invite and demote Terry. But I wouldn't have a bar of it.
"Now is the time to stand strong," I said. "Out of fear of the threats of a lunatic, you would have us desert a man speaking up for a fair go for his son locked up and tortured in a US concentration camp? No way. I am going back to work."
The work I hurried back to was lantern making in the Mining Exchange for that morning we had our last school group coming in to help with the Dawn Walk preparations. They were an enthusiastic group from a local Catholic school called Our Lady of Help Christian School. For five years they had come and so much was it part of their school culture now that lanterns had become integral to their year 6 graduation ceremony.
The media crews trooped in and out and the kids loved the excitement. They worked most conscientiously and the media used them as a delightful backdrop, while I fielded interviews.
In reviewing his Eureka150 work, my lantern-making partner Fraser told me his single regret was that he was caught a bit on the back foot by the beat up, for he had had a late night drinking wine with an old friend. Not that I noticed for lantern production never faltered and he never wavered on his support for Hicks and was able to back up and re-assure Gordon. And Gordon held firm.
The next day, Friday 3 December, the Herald Sun ran another front-page headline on the story; this time EUREKA UPRISING, fury mounts as Hicks refuses to withdraw for historic march. There was no evidence of this fury in the Mining Exchange but I was later to learn that the City CEO had fielded 80 irate telephone calls from local residents and power brokers.
Page 4 of the Herald Sun 3 December 2004.
The Herald Sun had been able to draw out adverse comment from the Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, the Federal Treasurer Peter Costello and the Prime Minister John Howard. They had even got a Peter Lalor namesake descendent, a Victorian police officer, to say it was "sheer lunacy" - he reckoned Prime Minister John Howard would have been a better choice.
The Herald Sun cartoon by Kim Gun depicted David Hicks in blue singlet and army fatigues at the Eureka stockade with a grenade launcher blowing redcoats to bits while diggers cheer. The worst fear of federal governments US and Australian regard to David Hicks was that he might become an armed resistance folk hero. And here the Herald Sun had created the image.
Kim Gun cartoon Herald Sun 3 December 2004.
Three more pages and an editorial were devoted to the story including some personal slander of Terry Hicks and myself by muck racking columnist, Andrew Bolt, self-proclaimed scourge of the Left. Not a reader of the Herald Sun myself, I was later to learn from Dr Joe that Bolt's writing entertains by defaming the marginal but never the rich or the criminal who might retaliate.
Bolt said Terry, a divorcee who had fathered a boy who did not do well in school was undeserving of father of the century recognition. To defame me Bolt had gone aboard www.peacebus.com and discovered some things.
"Hello," he wrote. " Graeme Dunstan is the founder of the Australian Cannabis Law Reform Movement and an "Aquarian elder" who says ending the war on drugs is the "greatest moral and political challenge of our times." The fact that I liked a wee pipe of cannabis before setting to work in the mornings was also noted.
All over the news and plus emails coming in (eight hate plus two friendlies) because the Peacebus.com url was printed in the Herald Sun and broadcast over 3AW drive-time, it was an intense time. Dr Joe, a veteran of Herald Sun beat ups, was my mentor.
At this very time in the previous year the Herald Sun quoting freely from his ASIO file had named Joe as a known subversive who had infiltrated a citizen action group, namely the Defend and Extend Medicare Campaign, which Dr Joe, a medical practitioner, had actually initiated. The Herald Sun missed however that he was to be honoured the next day as Leading Light of the Eureka149 Dawn Walk.
"It will pass," said Dr Joe. "If after 48 hours there is no shift in the story, the media hounds will move onto their next victim."
He was right. The story in the Herald Sun had begun to shift already in the Friday 3 Dec report on the official Eureka150 Dawn Commemorations. The Hicks story was inset ("Terry Hicks determined to lead Eureka march") and it contained photo of Major Michael Mori, David Hicks' US Army appointed military lawyer, who was quoted as saying that Terry Hicks' fight against the government was with the tenets of the Eureka Stockade.
Eureka150 report, Herald Sun 3 December 2004.
"I think it is more about him (Terry) that David – they need to separate the two issues," Maj Mori said. "He's a dad that is standing up for his son … I thinks that's noble"
Great quote, hey?
On Saturday 4 December The Age carried a grand photo of the avenue of Eureka flags being flown outside the parliament in Canberra, the triumphal work of Catherine King, Member for Ballarat, and Alison Fraser, the principal Eureka150 organiser in Premiers and Cabinet. The headline for the story was: "As Eureka flag flies, Hicks role sparks a flutter" and it quoted the Ballarat CEO as saying Terry Hicks' invitation was not endorsed by the Council and that the event had no leader. (News to us organisers of the past seven years.)
It quoted Terry as saying: "I'm going, and I will stand up and defend David's rights, the same as the miners did."
The front page Tannberg cartoon under the Canberra photo depicted three flags each flying on a pole beside a little house, captions under each reading: The Past, The Present and The Future. The Past was the existing national flag with its Union Jack, The Present was a US stars and stripes and The Future was the Eureka Flag. Thank you, Tannberg. Perfect.
Tanneberg cartoon front page The Age 4 December 2004.
On Saturday 4 December the Sunday Age sent journalist Paul Heinrichs to Ballarat along with photographer Andrew de la Rue, to interview Terry. I served them tea from the back of Happy Wheels and made them comfortable in camp chairs in the shade of a street tree, while we waited together at Bakery Hill for Terry to arrive from Adelaide
Journalist Paul Heinricks and photographer Andrew de la Rue at home with Happy Wheels 4 December 2004.
They had come to follow up a story about the admissibility of torture evidence at David Hicks hearing before a US Military Tribunal. When Terry arrived, Paul Heinrichs interviewed him at length and at the end he said to Terry: "I know what you are about. If my son was in Guantanamo Bay I would be doing what you are doing."
The story was published the next day with a big colourful photo of Terry and me with the Happy Wheels Eureka Dawn Walk panel background and a Byron Peace flag flying from it. Terry is quoted as saying he was not surprised to hear that torture evidence would be admissible because of the harsh nature of US military justice.
"This is just another chapter of a process that has been unfair all along," he said.
The Sunday Age story 5 December 2004.
Let me say that I liked Terry from the first. His down to Earth ordinariness makes him extraordinary. He loved the media attention the Dawn Walk was able to direct to him and his cause.
The Age of Monday 6 December carried a page 2 photo of the massed lanterns moving down Mair Street, the best Eureka Dawn Walk photograph ever. The headline read: "And march they did, some baiting and others cheering."
Terry Hicks was quoted as telling the marchers: "injustice as still as strong as in 1854, with Australia's authorities sacrificing the liberties of their own citizens in the interests of a foreign power."
Also quoted was a different Peter Lalor descendent, a great, great, grandson named Peter Lalor Philp, who said he could see the parallels between the injustices his ancestor fought and Mr Hick's struggle to ensure his son was fairly tried by the Americans." An inset photo showed Mr Philp embracing Mr Hicks.
The Age story 6 December 2004.
The last mention of the event in the metropolitan media was on the letters page (page 85) of the Herald Sun of Tuesday 7 December. It showed a photo of Terry carrying his solitary lantern and gave the headline "At least the miners got a fair trial."
The Herald Sun letters page 7 December 2004.
So the Herald Sun beat up had blown itself out and the story had turned around completely. It had been able to do this because Terry Hicks stood firm in his truth, and I stood strong beside him, and Fraser and Jo, my lantern making colleagues, stood strong by me, and Gordon Morrison as Gallery Director stood strong and then more and more people spoke up and turned out on the issue.
The complete turn around within the big family of Lalor descendents was proclaimed in a half page opinion piece written by Peter Lalor Philp and published by the The Courier Ballarat of 16 January. Six weeks after and the story still current: we must have done something right.
Peter Lalor Philp wrote that: "Terry Hicks was a powerful symbol who demonstrated the importance of the historical Eureka charting the future. Of all the events which contributed to the 150th celebration, none exemplified better the spirit of Eureka in contemporary terms than Terry Hicks in the lantern march."
Gandhi also noticed this pattern of cultural change when he held to the truth. It is as if the universe finds some fixed and strong anchor point to turn upon; truth upheld becomes like a stout post sunk deep into the ground and supporting a door to turn and open.
Gandhi reflected a long time before he chose a name for his social change tactic, which he knew was much more than non-violent civil disobedience. The word he finally chose was Satyagraha, which he interpreted to mean "holding firmly to the truth".
Which is what we had been doing with the Eureka Rising Rebel Festivalall along. Dharma bum rebels holding firmly to the truth.
Deep Lead, January 2005
This is a story of the success of the Eureka Rising Rebel Festival. It is a story told from a very particular view and by a very engaged rebel who is also the author. He did not do it alone: indeed there were many who helped and the overall success of Eureka150 celebration was bigger than the Rebel Festival and the Dawn Walk.
So there are many people to thank and acknowledge for the Eureka150. But in particular I want to acknowledge the following.
Willem Brugman, Catherine Hassall, Maya Thiango and Graham Bird of Culture Lab. Thank you for the companionship, the intellectual and cultural stimulation and the kind hospitality.
Fraser Mackay and Jo Foley, partners in the production of the Dawn Walk. Fraser attended the City meetings and organised the event production. Jo Foley was his partner and my lantern making assistant. Both creative, hard working and hands problem solvers, they were a delight to work with and they made the guidance of school groups in the making of lanterns a breeze.
Frank Williams, President of the Eureka Stockade Memorial Association Inc, a former Mayor of Ballarat and a former football umpire. Thank you for your support for the Eureka banner sewing project. It was Frank's backing that got it off the ground and got the banners on parade for the Diggers Walk.
Shirley Jones of Eureka Street, Eureka. Thanks for supervising the sewing of the flags. Shirley was the heart and the backbone of the Eureka Women's Sewing Circle. Thanks too to all the sewers in the Circle and to Gavin and Joan McGill of Magic Needle for their rag trade know how and technical support.
Gordon Morrison, Director Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, the sponsor of the Eureka150 Dawn Walk. Thanks for standing strong on the Hicks invitation. Thanks for putting up money to buy Eureka banners. Thanks for paying me to be artistic director of the Eureka150 Dawn Walk.
Terry Hicks and his brother Steve. Thanks for driving from Adelaide, standing strong for justice and walking humbly with us in the Eureka150 Dawn Walk as our Leading Light, conspicuous in defending rights and these times.
Terry Hicks, Graeme and brother Steve Hicks in Eureka Park, 4 December 2004
Helen Bath, secretary of ESMA and organiser of the Eureka Luncheon and also her husband Robert. Thanks for the collaboration decorating up the Mining Exchange. It looked great.
Robert Bath and Graeme after the set up of the Mining Exchange on the evening 4 December. Helen Bath, the photographer.
Dr Joe Toscano of the Anarchist Media Institute. Thanks for inspiration of his Reclaim the Radical Tradition of Eureka project and his solidarity and support during the Herald Sun blitz. Dr Joe wrote a letter in my defence and had it published in the Herald Sun 9 December. He named Graeme "an unknown Australian hero".
John Laurence, local peace activist and anarchist. Thanks for his collaboration organising the Direct Democracy Soapbox Forum at the University of Ballarat on 26 November.
Bodha Gwen of Gondwana, Byron Bay, John Peace, a fellow nomad and Peacebus companion and David "Frame" Robinson, Big Hill companion from Stawell. Thanks to these three friends who arrived, plugged in and gave invaluable hands-on help lantern making and setting up banners.
Bodha Gwen and John Peace helping out with the lanterns
Alison Smith, Ballarat photographer. Thanks for supporting the Dawn Walk again, in particular thank you for directing volunteers to the lantern making. And thank you for the lovely coffee and brandy picnic you set up for after the Dawn Walk in Eureka Park on Eureka morning.
Jarrod Watt, Dom O'Brien and Anne E. Steward of ABC Radio Ballarat. Thank you for being so responsive to the Eureka Rising Rebel Festival and seeing its community news content, its humour and its political relevance.
The Venerable Santitthito, monk and Dharma teacher. Thank you, Venerable Sir, for coming all the way from Wedderburn NSW to sit with us during our Eureka150 rebel preparations and share the Buddha's teachings. Many the insight gained, much the grace experienced.
Jennifer the Maremma. Thank you for being the patient good natured companion. Everywhere you went you were loved and admired.
Jennifer the Maremma and fans Eureka park, 4 December 2004