Monday, 1 September 2014

Eureka Stockade Flag - the Southern Cross

The Eureka Stockade was a political revolt in Victoria that led to the institution of democratic government in that state and the development of democratic principles throughout Australia. Mark Twain said of the Eureka Stockade:
"By and by there was a result, and I think it may be called the finest thing in Australasian history. It was a revolution – small in size; but great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for principle, a stand against injustice and oppression....It is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle. It adds an honorable page to history; the people know it and are proud of it. They keep green the memory of the men who fell at the Eureka stockade, and Peter Lalor has his monument."
The flag of the Eureka Stockade is called the Southern Cross - and it is recognized and respected as an alternative flag of the country.  The symbolism of the flag was incorporated into the Australian Flag for federation.

Immature King Parrot - background, Southern Cross

Southern Cross - Flag used for demonstrations against John Kerr

When the institutions of democracy are challenged, the flag is sometimes used as a potent symbol of resistance to tyranny.

For a period, I was involved in organizing and sometimes leading protests against the governor general of the day, John Kerr.  Students at the Melbourne Institute of Technology replicated a number of Southern Cross flags and sent me one to fly during those demonstrations in Canberra.  Some of the clashes were violent - students and police tempers reaching breaking point.

Many years later, I had the privilege of meeting my opposite number from the police - Max Robinson AO QPM - when he retired as Police Commissioner in Tasmania and came to work for me for a couple of years.  Max was a wonderful man, full of stories and humor.  We compared notes about the revolution, and found that we probably agreed more than disagreed about most things. More importantly, perhaps, were the steps this gentle and quiet man had taken to allow a noisy bunch of students to protest, in safety.  

Peter Quinton
September 2014

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