Sunday, December 06, 2009

South Australia celebrates the spirit of the Eureka rebellion

The Eureka flag is a proud symbol of Australian struggles for democracy, independence and workers' rights.

At the request of the Spirit of Eureka Committee in South Australia, three metropolitan city councils, the Marion City Council, the Port Adelaide-Enfield City Council and the Campbelltown City Council, flew the Eureka flag in a Eureka Week Commemoration.

Campbelltown Council also flew the flag at its Migrant Memorial, a fitting gesture in a community with a large Italian-Australian population. The principal eyewitness account of the Eureka Rebellion is by leading participant Rafaello Carboni, one of a large number of Italians who took part.
While some so-called "patriots" try to misappropriate the Eureka flag for white supremacist and anti-immigrant purposes, it was Carboni who underscored the multicultural nature of the great rebellion, saying: "I call on my fellow diggers, irrespective of nationality, religion or colour, to salute the 'Southern Cross' as the refuge of all oppressed from all countries on earth."

The week commemorates the swearing of the Eureka oath on November 29, 1854 by gold diggers who were determined to resist the injustices of the authorities of the then British colony of Victoria, and the subsequent storming of the Stockade by police and troopers on the morning of Sunday December 3.

The simple words of the oath are as follows: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties".

Labor MP Steph Key told state parliament on December 1 that the Charter of the Spirit of Eureka "would be a sound basis for a bill of rights for Australia" (see below).

On December 3, the Eureka flag flew above the South Australian parliament as the President of the Legislative Council (Upper House), the Hon. Bob Sneath led about 60 participants in reciting the Eureka Oath.

The swearing of the oath has been put on video:

The text of Steph Key's statement to parliament follows:

The Hon. S.W. KEY (Ashford) (15:54): I was really surprised and also pleased to hear that, on Thursday 3 December at 1.15 on the steps of Parliament House, the Hon. Bob Sneath, the President of the Legislative Council, along with a number of others, including Martin O'Malley from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, will be conducting a celebration which commemorates 155 years of the spirit of Eureka.

Mr Venning interjecting:

The Hon. S.W. KEY: Eureka, yes. I understand that the Eureka flag will be flying. I am not sure whether it will fly from Parliament House, which would be unusual; we will have to wait and see and attend to find out. Needless to say, I think it is important for this house to note that the Spirit of Eureka Committee has been established in South Australia, as well as in other parts of Australia, including, of course, Victoria, where 155 years ago the Eureka Stockade rebellion took place.

Although I need to do a little more research into this organisation, certainly from the reading I have done so far it seems like one I would support. In its briefing information, the committee states:

We draw our inspiration from the fight for justice, democracy and a fair go for all that was born at the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854 which united more than 20 nationalities under the Eureka flag. The Eureka flag embodies the spirit of Australia's multiculturalism. It has become a national symbol for all those who fight for justice, unity, an egalitarian society and the vision of an independent and fair Australia. The Spirit of Eureka has adopted Eureka's spirit and its flag as an inspiration for all its endeavours.

I also understand that the Spirit of Eureka Committee has drawn up a charter of rights for Australians, known as the Eureka Charter, and that many of the demands it contains they believe would be a sound basis for a bill of rights for Australia to sit alongside a new updated and more relevant constitution. I know a number of organisations and people in Australia, particularly in South Australia, are very interested in investigating the bill of rights road for Australia. A number of really important points are made in the charter, which can be viewed on its website (, and I refer to one in particular, that is;

The right of all Australians to secure a dignified retirement that ensures decent and comfortable living standards through the social security and taxation systems.
Issues I know that are very dear to your heart, Madam Deputy Speaker, as well as to mine, are:

The right of working parents to have access to quality, free publicly funded childcare,

The right to employment standards that enable working parents to manage both work and family commitments and, in particular, that working parents have the time and opportunity to form and maintain relationships with their children which foster the child's development.

This really does reflect the campaigns that many of us, particularly women on the Labor side, have been involved with for many years for quality child care.

Points are also made about the acceptance by the government that infrastructure, such as education, health, public transport, energy, telecommunications, postal services, water and community services, are vital to the collective wellbeing of all citizens and must be publicly owned and managed, and the acceptance that efficiency of public service must be measured in terms of the quality of service provided, as well as the economic cost. I know that, again, this is an issue many of us hold very dear, particularly in regard to the public sector and the services it provides.

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