This clip chosen to be PG
Drawings and archival photographs depict the events that lead to the battle between gold miners and authorities at the Eureka Stockade. It describes the emergence of Peter Lalor as the leader of the Stockade and how the diggers used the Southern Cross flag.
The Eureka Stockade was a civilian revolt against the gold licence.
This clip shows scenes and events leading up to the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854. The clip opens with an image of troopers and a narrator introduces an actor playing Robert Rede, the Gold Commissioner at Ballarat, Victoria; Rede declares his determination to 'crush’ the miners and their protests against the miner’s licence. Drawings and images depict troopers on horseback approaching miners and demanding to see their licences. An actor playing Douglas Huyghue, a civil servant, describes how the Southern Cross flag was raised at Bakery Hill in Ballarat and the narrator describes how, in front of 500 people, Peter Lalor stepped forward to become the leader of the miners.
Educational value points
- Riot or Revolution looks at the events leading up to the Eureka Stockade rebellion on the Ballarat gold fields on 3 December 1854. The title, Riot or Revolution, draws attention to the disparity of views about the incident when 500 armed gold miners, newly arrived in the colonies from all over the world and known as 'Diggers’, fought a battle with government forces. The reasons for the ultimate revolt are complex; the Irish were outraged by the arrest of their priest’s servant on a dubious charge, the Americans protested that a compatriot had been framed by the police for selling 'sly grog’, the Scots and others believed that a notorious publican, James Bentley, had been allowed to go free after the murder of their countryman, James Scobie. What actually precipitated the rebellion was Hotham’s decision to impose twice-weekly licence checks rather than the existing monthly ones and the harsh way in which licence 'hunts’ were conducted.
- Mention is made of the riot at Bentley’s Hotel prior to the Eureka rebellion. On 7 October 1854 a miner was murdered, possibly by the owner of Bentley’s Hotel, and the miners’ perception of a lack of justice in charging him led to them rioting and burning the hotel to the ground. In this clip Robert Rede promises to 'crush’ the miners and restore order and the authority of the Goldfields Commission. During the ensuing licence checks shots were fired and tensions on the gold fields mounted.
- An eyewitness account of the Eureka uprising on 30 November is presented in the film. Within hours of Robert Rede’s licence check raids, 500 angry miners converged on Bakery Hill and raised the Southern Cross flag. In this clip, Douglas Huyghue, a civil servant in the gold fields administration at Ballarat, describes the scenes from a detached observer’s point of view.
- The Southern Cross flag is depicted as an emblem of struggle and defiance. The Southern Cross or Eureka flag, which flew at the two meetings at Bakery Hill on 29 and 30 November and at the Stockade until 3 December 1854, is thought to have been designed by a group of miners or by the Canadian miner, Henry (Charles) Ross. The flag’s five stars represent the Southern Cross and the white cross joining the stars represents unity. The blue background is believed to represent the blue shirts worn by many of the Diggers. The flag was carried as a symbol of revolt by striking shearers in Barcaldine, Queensland in 1891 and today the Eureka flag is used as a symbol of egalitarian independence and republicanism and carried by unionists at protest meetings.
- Peter Lalor is depicted leading miners at the Eureka Stockade. Born in Ireland in 1827 Lalor, a civil engineer, immigrated to Australia in 1852, initially to work on the construction of the Melbourne–Geelong railway. He was wounded in the Eureka battle and his injuries required one of his arms to be amputated. After the Stockade, the Victorian Government offered rewards for Lalor’s capture but these were later withdrawn. Lalor was appointed to the Victorian Parliament in 1855, and in 1856 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly under a new, more democratic constitution that featured near-universal male suffrage. Thirteen Diggers were charged with high treason. The prosecution against one was withdrawn and juries acquitted the others.
- Riot or Revolution is the work of Melbourne documentary filmmaker Don Parham. One of Australia’s most established and well-regarded filmmakers, Parham has written, produced and directed ten distinctive documentary films for Australian television. Many of his films focus on contemporary Australian social and political issues. In Riot or Revolution Parham tackles the issue of whether the Eureka Stockade uprising was a riot by a group of law breakers or the revolutionary actions of workers seeking to 'defend their rights and liberties’. The film is largely constructed around the actual words and pictures that people at the time created in order to record their lives and tell the story of the Eureka Stockade.
- Primary source material is used creatively in Riot or Revolution to present a range of historical perspectives. Don Parham’s films are notable for the way they examine social issues and events from a range of perspectives. Riot or Revolution is constructed around eyewitness accounts from the time. Contemporary actors in period costumes and settings use the words of historical figures to produce a lively and engaging documentary. The film is further enriched by the extensive use of colonial art of the time and the use of narration to explain events as they unfolded. The result is history grounded in a range of original texts.
- Work by colonial artist Samuel Thomas Gill (1818–80) is included. A noted portrait and watercolour artist, Gill came to the Ballarat gold fields in 1852 intending to dig for gold. Instead, he began recording life on the gold fields through his sketches and watercolour paintings. The film uses a number of these images as backgrounds in the monologues delivered by the actors, and the camera lingers on the images for the sense of photorealism they bring to the film as the narration builds the story.
This clip starts approximately 34 minutes into the documentary.
The clip opens with a photograph of troopers at camp. Drawings and images depict troopers on horseback approaching miners and demanding to see their licences. An actor playing Douglas Huyghue, a civil servant, describes how the Southern Cross flag was raised at Bakery Hill in Ballarat. There is an illustration of the flag raised and surrounded by a ring of men with guns.
Narrator The goldfields commissioner at Ballarat, Robert Rede, still smarting from his humiliation at the riot at Bentley’s Hotel, was determined to confront the diggers.
Actor playing Robert Rede I am convinced the welfare of the state depends on the crushing of this movement. I propose sending out for unlicensed miners tomorrow in the usual way. This will test the feelings of the people.
Narrator Rede’s licence-hunt got the desired result. Shots were fired. Prisoners were taken. And the goldfields were left in uproar.
Actor playing Douglas Huyghue The heated blood of the diggers was not allowed to cool after this last raid, for within an hour, the rebel flag was hoisted on a tall staff on Bakery Hill, in full view of the camp.
Narrator About 500 armed men gathered under the flag of the Southern Cross. At the vital moment, the leadership mysteriously went missing, and the previously unknown Peter Lalor stepped forward.
Their is a scene of Peter Lalor stepping forward to become the leader of the miners is reenacted. We then see an illustration of the event.
Actor playing Peter Lalor Liberty! I tell you all…
Narrator Lalor was a recent immigrant who came from an Irish Catholic family steeped in the nationalist struggle. His father had opposed the payment of land taxes and his oldest brother fought in the failed uprising of 1848.
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