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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2413

(Question No. 1046)

Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, upon notice, on 23 August 1984:

(1) Did the insurrection at Eureka in Victoria on 3 December 1854 represent the first major organised resistance by a group of independent Australian workers against colonial government injustices.

(2) Does the historical significance of Eureka establish the uniquely Australian term 'digger', the Australian soldiers' trademark ever since and which was the work of diggers who were denied the franchise, who were denied representation in the Legislative Council of Victoria, who could not readily obtain land on which to settle, who were charged exhorbitant licence fees and who were violently harassed by government officials when they could not pay those fees.

(3) Has the rebellion been described by writers as 'the pioneer and supreme Australian event in the spectacular sense' and that Dr H. V. Evatt once declared that 'Australian democracy was born at Eureka'.

(4) Will the Government consider declaring 3 December a national holiday to commemorate the Eureka Stockade, beginning on 3 December 1984, which will be the 130th anniversary of this historic event.

(5) Will the Government also consider supporting the adoption of the famous Eureka Southern Cross flag as Australia's national flag as it is the only flag of traditional and historical significance that is uniquely Australian and exemplifies the past and present spirit of Australian independence, courage and a 'fair go'.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) to (5) Eureka is generally recognised as the first major organised resistance in Australia by members of a workers' movement. The term 'digger' was widely used on the goldfields of Australia in the 1850s to describe the miners and was adopted by Australian soldiers in the trenches in France during World War I. Many prominent writers have described the Eureka incident as a significant event in the history of Australia. Dr Evatt did state that ' Australian Democracy was born at Eureka', the occasion being an address to the Labor Golden Jubilee Committee in 1940. Responsibility for declaring public holidays rests with the individual State and Northern Territory Governments. The Commonwealth Government's power to declare such holidays is limited to the Territories which it administers. The Government is aware of the interest in the community in national symbols and may review the matter at a later date. The question of the status of the Eureka flag could be included in any such review.