Bearing light for the Eureka Story
Report of the Eureka Dawn Walk, Ballarat, 1 December 2002
At 3 am on the first Sunday in December 2002, a small crowd waits outside the huge wrought iron gates the old Ballarat Mining Exchange. Lydiart Street is presently Ballarat's nightclub zone and this small crowd is a quiet eddy in a passing stream of boisterous young drunks who at that hour are in search of good times' dregs.
This crowd is looking for something deeper and more artful for they are early arrivals for the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery's fifth annual Eureka Dawn Walk. A meditation on courage in the face of tyranny is how the pre-publicity has described it.
Soon the gates are open, the hundreds of lanterns lit and, under a lantern Southern Cross suspended from a roof truss, the old Mining Exchange of 1888 is revealed as a cathedral of light, and the launching place for an illumination of the Eureka Story.
For the two weeks previous the magnificent and spacious Mining Exchange has been in the process of this transformation. Master lantern maker, Graeme Dunstan, and event producer, Fraser Mackay, had set up their fifth annual lantern making workshop there. Some 400 candle-lit lanterns had been readied and new banners arrayed. Many volunteers, adults and children in school groups, had helped out.
About 220 Dawn Walkers assemble and at 4 am Graeme leads them out of the rear door of the Mining Exchange and into the newly commissioned Alfred Deakin Place, where the Eureka storyteller, Peter Freund, tells the first part of the story of the events of that fateful morning of 148 years ago. The Dawn Walkers are standing on the place, which in 1854 was called Government Camp.
"Let us walk for peace," Peter says. "Let us leave a place where violence was planned and walk to a place where violent things were done."
"Let us carry these lanterns as tokens of peace, beauty and respect and all those things that peace allows us to know. Let us walk together and turn this path of violence and rule by tyranny into a path of peace and reaffirm again this year that democracy must never be compromised."
The Walkers follow the circuitous path along the Yarrowee Creek taken by the soldiers and police took in their dawn attack on the diggers in the Eureka Stockade. Crossing Mair Street, the Walkers, pass through a pedestrian tunnel under the railway line and enter Eastern Oval. Strung out around the curve of the oval and free from street lighting for the first time the Walkers behold the splendour of the lanterns, a river of light, bobbing with diamonds and stars.
From a balconey of the lovely old grandstand, Peter tells the second part of his story, giving an actor's voice to the actors of that time: Humffray, Carboni, Lalor and Hotham. The Walkers listen in silence, taking the opportunity of the seats to rest their legs, and sipping at the hot toddies that had been offered by Gallery volunteers. Another tradition with roots going back to 1854.
The Dawn Walkers then enter parkland of Black Hill following a Yarrowee now willowed and unguttered, its waters reflecting glimpses of the lanterns, the enchantment of lantern light weaving its spell.
At the places of story telling, Peter is flanked by Eureka standards each made up of a Eureka banner and string of four lanterns hanging side by side on a 4 metre pole. They light up the story teller and give the Walk and the story telling the visual impression of an Italian religious procession.
The standard bearers are volunteers and the standards require strength to hold them steady in the breezes. "Not for everyone this task," Graeme has explained. "You will need forearms and the determination of the Eureka diggers."
Under Black Hill, Peter tells of the breakdown of negotiations and how the stage is set for confrontation. He quotes Carboni: "We can tell our sons and daughters that we raised the Southern Cross on Bakery Hill and that we swore by that Southern Cross to stand together truly and fight side by side to defend our rights and liberties. What ever comes, we know that we are Ćil gente della Croce del Sud', men and women of the Southern Cross."
Leaving the Yarrowee, the Dawn Walkers head north along streets of the suburbs that now over lay the soldiers route. The sky is lightening as they come to Specimen Vale. The first bird calls of dawn are heard where 140 years ago the first shot was fired to warn the diggers of the soldiers' approach.
Just below the cottage where Agnes Frank, as young girl, stood on her veranda and witnessed the attack, Peter tells the fourth and final part of his story. The dawn birds are chorusing as he describes the short but bloody battle.
Peter quotes the Eureka lament from Kenneth Cook's "Stockade":
"Have you drums there?
Let them beat softly.
Have you drums there?
Let them beat slowly.
If you can weep, weep now.
There's thirty good men dead."
"Do Hotham and his gold commissioners triumph at Eureka?" he asks rhetorically. "After the shock of the news, a tide of support swells for the diggers and their cause. Five juries refuse to convict the rebels who are carried in triumph through the streets of Melbourne."
"Eureka has become a potent and bloody symbol of protest against arbitrary use of force, a pulse at the heart of our democratic tradition."
"They walked under the Southern Cross as we have walked this night under the Southern Cross," Peter concludes. "And though other lights seem to outshine the stars, the stars still shine in the sky and are still stitched to the flag."
"If we see through their eyes and feel the strength of their passion, the stars will shine as they did that night when they together, side by side, ready to fight and defend their rights, prepared to die to uphold their liberties."
Approaching the Stockade site, crossing the ground where the redcoats lined up to do murder, the setting crescent moon frees itself from clouds and reveals its splendour.
The Dawn Walkers circumnavigate the Eureka Centre and assemble on the far side of the ornamental lake established 70 years ago by the volunteers of the Eureka Trust. Their contribution to ever renewing remembrance of the Eureka story, as our is art this morning. Between weeping willows in the dawn light, the huge bold Eureka Flag on the leaning mast of the Centre reflects on the water.
Here the Dawn Walk's Leading Light of the Walk, Harry van Moorst is invited to speak. Harry, presently director of the Werribee Environment Centre, has given a lifetime to community based social action in defence of peace, justice and the environment.
"The struggle for peace and justice goes on," says Harry. "It is the people who keep governments honest. Only the people can do this. Only people standing truly together with the courage and determination of the Eureka diggers will protect our liberties and our environment for future generations."
Barry Dickens, Melbourne's everyman author, poet and story teller, comes forward and offers a poem. "Who killed Christ's children?" he asks and leads us into a part prepared, part spontaneous word spiral of grief, wonder and renewal.
Like the feeling of hot pudding in the belly after a good meal, the mood is sweet. Replete.
The previous day had been polling day for the Victorian state elections. A 10% swing to the Greens and the Bracks Labour government re-elected with an 8% swing. The Liberal Party, which only a few years ago under Kennett had ruled riding rough shod over citizen protest (a bloody police baton charge for example against a bunch of parents defending their school from closure, for God's sake!), had been vanquished at the polls. Globalisationists routed.
Amongst the Dawn Walkers were people from Bendigo and Stawell who had opposed Kennett backed pit gold mine developments in their neighbourhoods. Out of gratitude for the support and encouragement Harry had given them in their difficult but ultimately successful campaigns, they had come to bear witness to his role as Leading Light.
For them this morning was especially sweet.
4 December 2002
The 2002 Eureka Dawn Walk will assemble:
for the 2002 Eureka Dawn Walk
at 3.30 am for a 4.00 am departure
on Sunday 1 December 2002
at the Ballarat Gold Exchange, Lydiard Street
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
of a lantern lit, story telling walk that remembers the Victorian Colonial Government's dawn attack on the diggers at the Eureka Stockade on Sunday 3 December 1854.
The Walk follows the 3.5 km route taken by the soldiers and police in 1854 and arrives at the Eureka Memorial at dawn for participation in the Eureka Dawn Oration.
These are just two of a program of events with which the City of Ballarat celebrates Eureka Sunday as a moment of great significance in the building of democracy in Australia. For more information about the Eureka Sunday program, click here.
For the past 5 years Graeme Dunstan has been employed by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery as the master lantern maker to make the lanterns and prepare the event. The Mining Exchange is transformed into a lantern factory and children from local primary schools come and help.
For Graeme the blood sacrifice of the Eureka stockade is significant because it spelled the end of the penal era of colonial rule in Australia. The public reaction to the massacre of the diggers set off earnest democratic reform and the Australian colonies soon become world leaders in the reforms of enlightened goverment.
The victory of Eureka was a victory for liberalism when a liberal was someone who wanted to liberate him/herself and society from tyranny. In those times the word "liberal" was spoken by the ruling elites and their servants with the same kind of distain and contempt as is accorded to "commies" and "greenies" today.
Thus the Eureka flag became the symbol of the Australian people's resistance to corrupt and oppressive government and ever since the Eureka flag has flown whenever Australians have gathered "to defend their rights and liberties".
Graeme conspires with local events maestro, Fraser Mackay, another grey haired wizard, to create enchantment and the Dawn Walk is a seriously beautiful and deeply moving experience.
And there is another angle of delight. School groups come in to help make the lanterns and Graeme gets to tell the Eureka story as a story of courage in the face of tyranny. So Graeme not only teaches the school children the skills of lantern making, as a Eureka Stockade story teller he also teaches them life skills for dealing with tyrants.
Graeme wants friends of Peacebus.com to know that remembering the courage and sacrifice of the ancestors and making their story vivid for another generation of defenders of rights and liberties is soul food of the finest quality. He feels blessed and deeply honoured to be bearing light for the Eureka story.
If you want to come and help make lanterns, call Graeme on 0412 609 373 or email him.
On Eureka eve, it has become a tradition for friends and helpers to help set up the lantern spectacle in the Mining Exchange in readiness for the arrival of the Dawn Walkers and then share a camp fire together. If you are interested in this likewise, call Graeme on 0412 609 373 or email him.
Media Release 28 November 2002
Harry van Moorst leading light for Eureka Dawn Walk
Community activist Harry van Moorst will lead the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery's fifth annual Eureka Dawn Walk this Sunday morning 1 December.
"We are honoured to have Harry lead the Walk," said gallery director Margaret Rich.
"Harry van Moorst has been a long time community based activist around the issues of environment, social justice and peace in Victoria, and we recognise him as a leading light in the defence of rights and liberties in our times," she said.
Harry is currently the Director of the Western Region Environment Centre and a part time lecturer in Social Research, Sociology and Community Development at Victoria University.
He is probably best known to Victorians for his role in the successful campaign of 1996≠9 to prevent a toxic dump being established by CSR in Werribee. The broad based citizen campaign by Werribee residents caused the pro-dump Kennett government to back down. Harry was subsequently appointed to the government's Hazardous Waste Consultative Committee and has since worked to establish policies and consultative processes that will help to avoid future conflicts of this type.
Harry's exemplary courage and determination in the fight against oppression and tyranny were first made plain in the late 60s and early 70s when he was directly involved in organising anti-war and draft resistance activities. Harry was the Vice-Chairperson of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. As a result of his activities during this time he spent many nights in police cells, and several stints inside Pentridge.
Later in the Ć70s he was involved with anti-uranium activities and with a range of social justice and civil liberties actions.
During the 1980s he was the convenor of the Coalition Against Poverty and Unemployment and he organised many activities to highlight the problems of unemployment and child poverty. He was the primary organiser of the Children and Poverty Campaign as well as the "People's Tax Summit" and the author of the People's Budget in 1984-85.
The Dawn Walk is an artful and enchanting telling of the Eureka story. As a meditation on courage in the face of tyranny it is a perennially pertinent theme
The Walk will assemble at 3.30 am Sunday 1 December at the Mining Exchange. It follows the route taken by the soldiers and police in their attack on the Eureka Stockade on Sunday 3 December 1854 and arrives at the Stockade site at dawn.
Ballarat Fine Art Gallery 03 5320 5858
Harry van Moorst 03 9731 0288 (w) firstname.lastname@example.org
Media Release 21 November 2002
Bearing Light for the Eureka story
Lantern making is underway in the Ballarat Mining Exchange for the fifth Eureka Dawn Walk, which will take place Sunday 1 December as part of the annual Eureka Sunday commemorations.
An artful and enchanting telling of the Eureka story, the Dawn Walk is produced on behalf of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery as a collaboration between itinerant lantern maker Graeme Dunstan, local events maestro Fraser Mackay and playwright Peter Freund.
Assembling at 3.30 am at the Mining Exchange, the Walk follows the Yarrowee Creek and arrives at the Stockade site at dawn. At intervals along the way Peter Freund, using the words of the diggers, the soldiers and the government officials involved, tells the story and so that the Dawn Walkers may reflect on the motives and circumstances of the participants as they follow the route taken by the soldiers for their dawn attack.
Combining the visual splendour of a mass lantern display with skilful storytelling about an event which shaped Australia as a nation, the Dawn Walk is a truly magical and deeply moving experience for participants.
Each year the Walk attracts about 250 participants most of them Ballarat families, many of them coming back for the second and third time.
"As a meditation on courage in the face of tyranny it is a perennially pertinent theme, illuminated in this uniquely Ballarat event and not to be missed." says lantern maker Graeme Dunstan.
In preparation for the Dawn Walk volunteers and school groups assist make the lanterns in the Mining Exchange. All help welcomed.
Ballareat Fine Art Gallery 03 5320 5858
Graeme Dunstan 0412 609 373
Massacre at Eureka - The Untold Story by Bob O'Brien, Australian Scholarly Publishing 1992. Good writing and excellent source documents. The late Bob O'Brien was a radio journalist who had retired to the gold era town of Clunes, Victoria.
Eureka by John Molony, Viking 1984. Molony is professor of History at Australian National University. The research is thorough but some how the writing is tendacious. The point he wants to make is the Eureka stockade was no rebellion, but rather a deliberate and planned massacre by the colonial government of Governor Charles Hotham to
intimidate the miners.
Eureka Stockade by Richard Butler, Angus and Robertson 1983. This is written as a novel based on the screen play of a TV mini series of Crawford production. Peter Lalor as sensitive hero. Readable and interesting to observe how the fragments from historical source documents had become a script.