“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties”
(Oath of allegiance stated by Peter Lalor and sworn by miners at Bakery Hill, 29th November 1854)
The Eureka Flag also known as the flag of the Southern Cross or the Ballarat Reform League Flag was first flown at a “Monster Meeting” of miners on Bakery Hill, Ballarat on the 29th November 1854. The flag was flown from a flag staff eighty feet in length and “as straight as an arrow”. The design of the flag incorporate white stars on a dark blue background and it is believed to have been made by a group of women on the diggings. The flag measured 400cm by 260cms and was constructed using wool and cotton materials.
The Ballarat Times reported: “about eleven o’clock the “Southern Cross was hoisted, and its maiden appearance was a fascinating object to behold. There is no flag in Europe, or in the civilized world half so beautiful, and Bakery Hill, as being the place where the Australian ensign was first hoisted, will be recorded in the deathless and indelible pages of history. The flag is silk, blue ground with large silver cross; no device or arms, but all exceedingly chaste and natural.”
Weston Bate in his book “The Lucky City” writes: “The blue bunting with its white cross and stars symbolized for many their feelings of alienation from old world repression”
The flag was also flown at the Eureka Stockade prior to and at the time of the attack by soldiers and police on Sunday 3rd December 1854. It is recorded that the flag was removed from its pole by trooper John King. The flag was presented as evidence at the Eureka Trials in Melbourne during February/March 1855. The King family presented the flag to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in 1895. During the early 1970’s the flag was washed and later prepared for display at the Gallery by Val D’Angri. It was unveiled by the then Prime Minister of Australia the Hon E.G. Whitlam on 3rd December 1973. The flag is today housed in strictly monitored lighting and controlled atmospheric conditions specifically designed for the exhibition and conservation of the flag.
The following extract from “The Eureka Flag – Our Starry Banner” expresses a view concerning the significance of the flag. “The Eureka Flag although flown for only five short days has become indelibly etched into many hearts and souls. It is only a flimsy piece of fabric, but because it commemorates courage, and vindicates human rights it has become a lasting and respected symbol. The miners at Eureka were not committed of treason, and although the Starry Banner is a rebel flag, and “sang the rebel chorus”, it is not perceived as disloyal to the crown but rather as a sign of triumph, of common rights succeeding over excessive force and unjust laws. The Eureka Flag commemor