The four of us have an extract from Imagining Australia in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. It begins:

This Friday Australia will remember the 150th anniversary of the Eureka uprising. Yet never before in our history has Eureka been more marginal. Many perceive the Eureka legend as having been appropriated by extreme groups, and having little relevance to modern Australia.

In its place, Australia has grasped hold of the Anzac legend, in the hope it might serve as our central story. But Gallipoli was no revolutionary war or civil war fought on behalf of universal principles. It was a small, failed campaign in a mostly pointless war to maintain the increasingly dysfunctional idea of balance of power at the heart of Europe. Anzac has little to say about national origins and independence, democracy and institutions or self-confidence and maturity.

Australia should re-elevate Eureka to its previous position as a central legend of Australian nationalism, standing for those distinctly Australian values – egalitarianism, mateship, fairness – together with democracy, freedom, republicanism and multiculturalism.

To continue reading "Time to reclaim this legend as our driving force", click here.

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1 Response to Eureka!

  1. Nice op-ed, I have some issues with it. I am a fan of history and Australian history. I have studied the Australian Flying Corps in great detail which leads inevitably to the ANZACs. Eureka was definitely the big nodal point in the 19thC for Australia, just as the ANZACs and Bradman were in the 20thC.

    But these nodal points have been co-opted for the desire to have a “SUPER BIG NODAL” point (noblesse oblige (sp?)) where everything changed. Which is a very American view of history. The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Second World War and Concentration Camps etc. You see it today in the rhetoric of the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon, “September 11th changed everything”


    The value of the ANZACs, was that never before had such large numbers of Australians (and percentage of the population) gone overseas and been confronted with how different their culture was. They went over thinking they were British and came back knowing they were Australian.

    The only other node like this is the current Australian Diaspora, 5% of the population at any one time, which is constantly being confronted by the strength of Australian culture. Like the ANZACs, the Diaspora is comfortable on the world stage, and achieving with a humble self-confidence.

    Rather than a Nietche like bath the nation in blood, this is the lesson of the ANZACs. They weren’t Aryan warriors that created the nation state, they were a domestic cultural revolution.

    The ANZACs would not have had the same effect though without strong independent leadership, such as Monash, Williams etc. World War II had a similar number of Australians overseas, but Australian leadership was so poor, from Whitlam, Curtin and Blamey – that all it did was increase Australian resentment. WWII is an era of drastic Australian failure in government and the upper military. Unlike WWI.

    Noble History

    When you study Australian history and don’t go looking for these American style “everything changed” nodal points, such as Federation; you start to find that there is a long history of individuals stamping their feet in the ground and saying no more – I demand my rights.

    Australian history in this context has been the government vs the people. It also becomes a very noble history from the experience of the people that doesn’t require a nodal point like the American Revolution to create a popular narrative. The “Culture Wars” ironically are constantly chipping away at this, by seeking to have a monopoly on the “noble history” through government ownership of history.

    If Australian history is to be told with this underlying narrative; it suddenly includes all the disenfranchised minorities, who gain upstanding individuals that have fought for their cause. It becomes a very inclusive Australian history, that is not dependant upon Australianness to define it. As you pointed out in the op-ed Eureka was remarkable for how multi-national a group of dissidents they were.


    The first in this narrative would be Pemulwey, the Rainbow Warrior. Vinegar Hill would be included, as would Lalor and the others at Eureka. Others included would be Mary Lee, Harold Nelson, Vincent Lingiari and many others. It is a constant in Australian history – individuals vs the tyranny of government.

    I wrote a fairly long article on this subject a while ago, it equates tyrannical government with Deniehy’s “bunyip aristocracy”;

    The point I am trying to make is that Eureka doesn’t need to be cast as a central nodal point, there are lots of nodal points throughout Australian history that as a group make one long turgid undercurrent that points to noble and positive Australian values.


    I disagree that the Eureka flag should be the Australian one when Australia inevitably becomes a republic. I didn’t fill in the form at Ballarat when I was there not so long ago. Lalor indelibly entwined Australian liberty with the southern cross at sovereign hill, and any Australian flag is now remiss without it. But any future heraldry should be one that represents all Australians and come from consensus rather than history.

    The Union Jack fails the entirely, it doesn’t represent me as an Australian and must go.

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