Eureka Flag

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The original Eureka Flag
Image of reported flag arrangement at the Battle of the Eureka Stockade.

The Eureka Flag is a design which features: a dark blue field 260 x 400 cm (2:3.08 ratio); a horizontal stripe 37 cm wide and a vertical line crossing it of 36 cm wide; and 5 eight pointed stars, the central star being 65 cm tall (point to point) and the other stars 60 cm tall, representing the Crux Australis constellation.[1]

The design was first used for the war flag of the Eureka Rebellion (3 December 1854) at Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. A number of people swore allegiance to the flag as a symbol of defiance at its first flying at Bakery Hill on 29 November 1854. Over 22 miners were killed at the Eureka Stockade, along with six troopers and police. 125 miners were arrested and many others badly wounded.[2]

The flag has been loaned to Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka by the Art Gallery of Ballarat.[3]

The flag design has gained wider notability in Australian culture due to its adoption by radicals as a symbol of democracy, and general purpose symbol of protest,[4][5] mainly in relation to a variety of anti-establishment, non-conformist causes.[6] It is listed as an object of state heritage significance on the Victorian Heritage Register[7] and was named as a Victorian Icon by the National Trust in 2006.[8]

In addition to the Eureka flag it was reported there was a Union Jack flown by the rebels at the Battle of the Eureka Stockade known as the Eureka Jack.[9][10]


Origin and symbolism[edit]

The Flag is reputed to have been designed by a Canadian member of the Ballarat Reform League, Captain Henry Ross. Local legend claims that the Flag was sewn by three local women - Anastasia Withers, Anne Duke and Anastasia Hayes.[2]

Ross was said to be inspired by the design of the Australian Federation Flag.[11]

According to Frank Cayley's book, Flag of Stars, the flag's five stars represent the Southern Cross, and the white cross joining the stars represents unity in defiance.[12]

The flag is silk, blue ground with large silver cross; no device or arms, but all exceedingly chaste and natural.

Oath swearing at Bakery Hill[edit]

It flew for the first (recorded) occasion on Bakery Hill as a symbol of the resistance of the gold miners during the Eureka Stockade rebellion in the year 1854. Beneath this flag, Peter Lalor, leader of the Ballarat Reform League, swore this oath to the affirmation of his fellow demonstrators: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties."

According to the Ballarat Times, which first mentioned the flag a week earlier on 24 November 1854, at "about eleven o'clock the 'Southern Cross' was hoisted, and its maiden appearance was a fascinating object to behold."

What happened to the Eureka Jack?[edit]

Main article: Eureka Jack
Ray Wenban, "The Revolt at Eureka", Pictorial Social Studies, Vol. 16, pp. 25.

The Eureka flag was being flown at the stockade enclosure at the time of the battle on 3 December 1854. During the fighting, the war ravenged flag pole collapsed as Constable John King climbed to capture the enemy colours, which were then trampled on, hacked with swords and peppered with bullets by colonial troops.

When the first reports of the clash appeared in Melbourne the next day, readers of The Argus were told:

"The flag of the diggers, "The Southern Cross," as well as the "Union Jack," which they had to hoist underneath, were captured by the foot police." [13][14]

This flag arrangement was the one featured in an illustrated history resource for students dating from the 1950s. [15]

20th and 21st century investigations into sightings of other Eureka flags[edit]

General public interest in the Eureka Stockade is a thing of the relatively recent past, and the Eureka flag used in the 1949 motion picture Eureka Stockade starring Chips Rafferty and associated promotional material was not five stars arrayed on a white cross, rather the free floating stars of the Southern Cross, as per the official Australian national flag; the original specimen was not put on public display until 1973, and was only irrefutably authenticated in 1996 when sketchbooks of Canadian artist Charles Doudiet sold at auction, with the practice of the custodians snipping bits off and giving them to visiting dignitaries still going on within living memory.

The Ballarat Fine Art Gallery has searched for the reported second flag in response to public inquiries without success.

In 2013 the Australian Flag Society announced the release of their vexiollogical study of the subject and a worldwide quest and $10,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of the reported second "Eureka Jack" flag. [9] [10]

Erroneous reporting[edit]
Artistic recreation of the early morning siege at the Eureka Stockade, 3 December 1854.

There is some debate over whether this sole contemporaneous report of an otherwise unaccounted for Union Jack being present is accurate.[10] In his 2012 book Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution, Peter FitzSimons responds:

"In my opinion, this report of the Union Jack being on the same flagpole as the flag of the Southern Cross is not credible. There is no independent corroborating report in any other newspaper, letter, diary or book, and one would have expected Raffaello Carboni, for one, to have mentioned it had that been the case. The paintings of the flag ceremony and battle by Charles Doudiet, who was in Ballarat at the time, depicts no Union Jack. During the trial for High Treason, the flying of the Southern Cross was an enormous issue, yet no mention was ever made of the Union Jack flying beneath."

Private Hugh King of the 40th regiment which was part of the besieging forces, swore in a signed affidavit made at the time that he recalls:

"...three or four hundred yards a heavy fire from the stockade was opened on the troops and me. When the fire was opened on us we received orders to fire. I saw some of the 40th wounded lying on the ground but I cannot say that it was before the fire on both sides. I think some of the men in the stockade should - they had a flag flying in the stockade; it was a white cross of five stars on a blue ground. - flag was afterwards taken from one of the prisoners like a union jack – we fired and advanced on the stockade, when we jumped over, we were ordered to take all we could prisoners..."[16]

Supporters of the two flag theory say the sine quo non of their hypothesis is that second flag may well have been much smaller than the rebel battle flag. Had it been attached to the masthead at eye level, which it may, even with a block and toggle pulley system, which in the event appears to have been jammed, rendering it invisible to the approaching colonial forces except at close range, in the minutes after the first shot was fired, as the miners fought to the end inside the confines of their crude battlement. By the time the famous Eureka flag was lowered and defaced, first hand memories of the accompanying Union Jack, which itself may have been quickly tucked away amid the deadly siege of the Eureka Stockade, were apparently dissipating only for one single, syndicated report.

It has been said the flag taken from the prisoner may have been souvenired from the flag pole as they were on the retreat. There was another report of two flags having been captured at the stockade which appeared in The Argus on 9 December 1854 following a committal hearing which stated: “The great topic of interest to-day has been the proceedings in reference to the state prisoners now confined in the Camp. As the evidence of the witnesses in these cases is more reliable information than that afforded by most reports, I shall endeavor to give you an abstract of it.” Hugh King had been called upon to give further sworn testimony in the matter of Timothy Hayes and in doing so when into more detail than in his affidavit, as it was reported the Union Jack like flag was found "...rollen up in the breast of a[n] [unidentified] prisoner. He [King] advanced with the rest, firing as they advanced ... several shots were fired on them after they entered [the stockade]. He observed the prisoner [Hayes] brought down from a tent in custody." Once captured by John King the Eureka flag would be stored beneath his tunic in the same way as the suspected Union Jack was discovered on the prisoner.

The lack of notability in any other contemporary accounts may be the result of the Eureka Jack not being flown from the masthead until after the oath was taken, as the endgame drew near, with the Eureka flag being first mentioned by the Ballarat Times a week earlier on 24 November 1854, and hence it was only seen during the final hours of the unrest, after the negative reaction to Eureka commander in chief Peter Lalor's choice of password for the night of 2 December became apparent.

Eleventh hour response to divided loyalties and the Vinegar Hill blunder[edit]
The Eureka flag was the only one flown from the platform at the mass meeting in Ballarat on 29 November 1854.

Two flag theorists have stressed that the contemporaneous report may be credible due to the exacting journalistic standards of the era and that the investigating reporter may have had eyewitness accounts of the two flags having being seized available, and that it was possibly an 11th hour response to the divided loyalties among the heterogeneous rebel force which was in the process of melting away (at one stage 1,500 of 17,280 men in Ballarat were present, with only 150 taking part in the battle), with the rebel password for the night of 2 December - Vinegar Hill - causing support for the rebellion to fall away among those who were otherwise disposed to resist the military, as word spread that the question of Irish home rule had become involved.

Phillip Benwell of the Australian Monarchist League has said that few contemporary historians are prepared to admit that the Union Jack was also seen around the diggings at the time as an expression of loyalty to the powers that be; attempts to stir up miners at nearby Creswick Creek are known to have failed when talk turned from abolition of the licence fee to 'separation from Great Britain'. At the mass demonstration held on 29 November, there was disquiet among moderates that the Eureka flag was the only flag hoisted over the platform. [17] Although he does describe the stars of the Eureka Flag as diamond shaped, the writings of Raffaello Carboni, who was in Ballarat at the time, author of the main, complete eyewitness description and analysis of the causes of the attack on the Eureka Stockade, published a year after the event, make it clear that:

'amongst the foreigners ... there was no democratic feeling, but merely a spirit of resistance to the licence fee"; and he also disputes the accusations "that have branded the miners of Ballarat as disloyal to their QUEEN".'

It is certain that Irish born people were strongly represented at the Eureka Stockade. Eureka historians have discovered that as well as comprising most of the miners inside the stockade at the finish, the area where the defensive position was established was overwhelmingly populated by the Irish to begin with. Professor Geoffrey Blainey has advanced the view, that the white cross behind the stars on the Eureka flag "really [is] an Irish cross rather than being [a] configuration of the Southern Cross". [10]

Gregory Blake, military historian and author of Eureka Stockade: A Ferocious and Bloody Battle, concedes two flags may have been flown on the day of the battle, as the miners were claiming to be defending their British rights.

Optical illusion[edit]
Swearing the Eureka Oath, Charles Doudiet rendition. The Union Jack being flown at the adjacent government camp is in the background.

CEO of the Royal Australian Historical Society, John Vaughan, posits that the Union Jack in the adjacent government camp may have created an optical illusion, from a certain perspective common to artists. However this explanation neither explains why the investigating reporter found pressure to fly the Union Jack at the stockade or the source of their information that both flags were by then in the possession of the foot police. [10]

Conspiracy theories[edit]

Two flag theorists have conjectured the Eureka Jack may have been willfully destroyed or otherwise allowed to go missing. [10]

Circumstances surrounding omission of Eureka Jack as exhibit in Victorian high treason trials[edit]

It is also unlikely the first report was erroneous as John King's battlefield trophy was handed up as an exhibit at the following trial of the 13 miners for high treason. Given the legal position of the Union Jack as a royal flag representing the monarchy used as the defacto flag of the United Kingdom by permission of the reigning sovereign, the fact of its presence may have assisted the defence case against the indictments. According to The Eureka Encyclopedia, Sergeant John McNeil at the time shredded a flag at the Spencer Street Barracks in Melbourne, which was said to be the Eureka flag, but which may well have been a Union Jack.

Provided the Eureka Jack was not the victim of tampering with evidence, it may have been similarly returned to the officer of the peace in question but without being entered into evidence by the prosecution.

Earliest Eureka investigators were communists and radical nationalists[edit]

The earliest Eureka investigators were from among the ranks of communists and radical nationalists who may have had ideological motives for allowing the artifact to fade into obscurity or be intentionally done away with. [10]

The Eureka flag was commonly referred to at the time as the Australian flag, and as the Southern Cross, with The Age variously reporting, on 28 November: "The Australian flag shall triumphantly wave in the sunshine of its own blue and peerless sky, over thousands of Australia's adopted sons"; [18] the day after the battle: "They assembled round the Australian flag, which has now a permanent flag-staff"; [19] and during the 1855 Eureka trials, that it was sworn that the Eureka flag was also known as the "digger's flag" and also as "the Southern Cross". [20]

According to Vaughan:

"It is a myth that the Eureka flag flown at the stockade rebellion in 1854 was the first Southern Cross emblem. The acknowledged designer, Henry Ross of Toronto, Canada, would have been influenced by the popularity of already existing starry flags and the 1831 design had its colours reversed to a blue field and white cross and the Union Jack deleted.

"The Eureka flag was lost to general public imagination until after WW2 when, for mainly political reasons it was re-discovered and promoted as a ‘rebel’ symbol." [21]

Post-battle preservation of Eureka flag[edit]

Trooper John King retained the flag and it was held by his family for forty years until it was lent to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in 1895, where it remained in continued obscurity "under a cloud of skepticism and conservative disapproval"; bits of the flag were cut off and given to visiting dignitaries.[22] Approximately 31% of the original specimen is missing.

The flag was "re-discovered" by Len Fox during the 1940s,[23] but it took decades to convince authorities to properly authenticate the flag.[citation needed] it was found after World War II in a drawer at the gallery, discovered by members of the Australian Communist Party.[22] The final irrefutable validation of its authentication occurred when sketchbooks of Canadian Charles Doudiet were put up for sale at a Christies auction in 1996. Two sketches in particular show the flag design as contained in the tattered remains of the flag at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. The remnant of the original Eureka Flag remains today, preserved for public display at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. In 2001, legal ownership of the flag was transferred to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, which expects the King family and the gallery to be acknowledged every time a replica of the original flag is displayed. It is listed as an object of state heritage significance on the Victorian Heritage Register and was named as an icon by the National Trust in 2006.[24]

The restored original Eureka Flag (December 2011)

Contemporary meaning, notability, and controversy[edit]

Since the original miners revolt at Eureka, the flag, born out of adversity, continues to be regarded by some as a symbol of nationalism closely associated with this struggle for democracy and unity.

In the event the design of the Australian National Flag is ever reviewed some republicans support the Eureka Flag being one of the options in a plebiscite.

Whilst some Australians view the Eureka Flag as a symbol of nationality[25] (see Australian flag debate), it is more often employed by historical societies and re-enactors and by political radicals as a general purpose symbol of protest for a wide variety of anti-establishment non-conformist causes. The flag has been used as a symbol of rebellion by groups on both sides of the political spectrum, such as noted nationalistic group National Action and neo-Nazis,[26] who see it as representative of the efforts of the miners to free themselves from what they view, depending on their political persuasion, as either political or economic oppression, and by white supremacists at flashpoints for racial confrontation. Along these lines, some also believe that the flag used during the Lambing Flat riots was a derivative of the Eureka Flag.

During a 1983 royal tour, a republican supporter informally presented a small Eureka flag to Diana, Princess of Wales, who did not recognize it. The event prompted a cartoon of the royal couple with Charles, Prince of Wales observing "Mummy will not be pleased."[27]


Post Eureka[edit]

A modern variation was central to the landmark architecture of the Eureka Centre prior to its redevelopment as the Museum of Australian Democracy.
ALP policy launch before a huge crowd in the Sydney Domain on 24 November 1975. Eureka flags can be seen in the crowd and on tribune

A similar flag was flown prominently above the Barcaldine strike camp of the 1891 Australian shearers' strike,[citation needed] and thus has had a strong association with the Australian labour movement from this time.[citation needed] Construction unions such as the Builders Labourers' Federation in particular adopted the Eureka flag, and it is one of the flags that flies permanently over the Melbourne Trades Hall.

The Eureka flag was also used by supporters of Gough Whitlam after he was dismissed as Prime Minister.

NSW Parliament Building, Macquarie Street, Sydney, 3 December 2004

The sesquicentenary of the Eureka Stockade occurred in December 2004, and the Eureka Flag was used extensively during the events that were organised to promote awareness of the occasion. It was flown within each State Parliament building in Australia, the Federal Senate, and most prominently atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson made the Eureka flag a federal election campaign issue in 2004 saying "I think people have tried to make too much of the Eureka Stockade... trying to give it a credibility and standing that it probably doesn't enjoy."[28]

The men and women of HMAS Ballarat, the second Royal Australian Navy ship to bear the name, wear Eureka Flag insignia on their uniforms.[29]


The dimensions of the Eureka flag are 260 cm × 400 cm (100 in × 160 in) (2:3.08 ratio). The horizontal cross is 37 cm wide and the vertical cross 36 cm wide. The central star is slightly larger than the others and is 65 cm tall (point to point) and the other stars 60 cm tall.

Standardised design[edit]

Standardised design

The modern design of the Eureka flag is an enhanced and different version from the 1854 original with blue key lines around each of five equal stars. It is frequently made in the proportions of 20:13. Although the flag is designed as a representation of the Southern Cross, a constellation located in southern skies and thus only visible to viewers in the southern hemisphere, the stars are arranged differently from the arrangement of stars in the constellation itself. The "middle" star (Epsilon Crucis) in the constellation is off-centre, and near to the edge of the "diamond", while the Eureka flag shows it in the centre. The Eureka flag is only a stylised version of the more widely known pattern.

Derivatives and popular culture[edit]

During the Lambing Flat riots in 1861, a series of violent anti-Chinese demonstrations that took place in the Burrangong region, in New South Wales, Australia, on the goldfields at Spring Creek, Stoney Creek, Back Creek, Wombat, Blackguard Gully, Tipperary Gully, and Lambing Flat (now Young, New South Wales), the Lambing Flat Banner was painted on a tent-flap, now on display at the Lambing Flat museum, bearing a Southern Cross superimposed over a St. Andrew's Cross with the inscription, 'Roll Up – No Chinese'; the banner has been claimed by some as a variant of the Eureka Flag, which served as an advertisement for a public meeting that presaged the Lambing Flat riots.

Today the Eureka Flag has been adopted by a variety of groups, including the Builders Labourers Federation and the Australia First Party. The City of Ballarat and University of Ballarat, for instance have used stylised versions of the 'Southern Cross' in their official logo along with several trade unions and other associated groups.

Sporting clubs have also used the flag as a symbol including the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Rebels. Melbourne Victory supporters adopted it as a club flag for its foundation year in 2004, however it was subsequently briefly banned[30] at A-League games by the Football Federation of Australia, but rescinded in the face of criticism from the Victorian general public. The Football Federation of Australia claimed that the ban was 'unintentional'.

A Red Eureka Flag was used by communists during the late 1970s early 1980s.As the design was little seen and the group using it was on fringe of the communist movement the Red Eureka flag soon disappeared from view. The Red Eureka flag has since been adopted by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. The AMWU, however, has no links to communism and is instead affiliated with the Australian Labor Party.

Vintage star spangled Eureka flag[edit]

According to the eminent Dr Whitney Smith writing in 1975, the Eureka flag “perhaps because of its association with labor riots and a time of political crisis in Australian history, was long forgotten. A century after it was first hoisted, however, Australian authors began to recognise that it had been an inspiration, both in spirit and design, for many banners up to and including the current official civil and state flags of the nation.” [31]

With respect to the provenance of the star spangled Eureka flag, Withers published in the Ballarat Star on 1 May 1896 an article which contained a quote from John McNeil, who recalled a meeting on Bakery Hill where one Robert McCandlish “unbuttoned his coat and took out an unfurled a light blue flag with some stars on it, but there was no cross on it”. [32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b "The flag of the Southern Cross (Eureka Flag)". Art Gallery of Ballarat. Retrieved March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Eureka Flag". Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. Retrieved March 2014. 
  4. ^ Huxley, John Eureka? An answer to that Jack in the corner gets a little bit warmer Sydney Morning Herald. 26 January 2011
  5. ^ Thousands march for Labour Day across Queensland Australian Broadcasting Commission. 3 May 2011
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Eureka Flag, Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number H2097". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 2011-11-28. 
  8. ^ "2006 Icons | National Trust of Australia (Victoria)". Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  9. ^ a b Cowie, Tom (October 22, 2013). "$10,000 reward to track down the 'other' Eureka flag". The Courier. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Morris, Nigel. "What happened to the Eureka Jack?". Australian Flag Society. 
  11. ^ "Flag History – Other Australian Flags – Eureka Flag". Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  12. ^ Eureka flag history
  13. ^ "ergo | Research, resources and essay writing". Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  14. ^ "By Express. Fatal Collision at Ballaarat.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.). 4 December 1854. p. 5. Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  15. ^ "The Revolt at Eureka", Pictorial Social Studies, Vol 16, pp. 25 – 27.
  16. ^ King, Hugh. "Eureka Stockade:Depositions VPRS 5527/P Unit 2, Item 9". Public Record Office Victoria. 
  17. ^ Manning Clark, A History of Australia IV, (Melbourne University Press, Cartlon, Vic., reprint 1987) 74.
  18. ^ Ballarat Times, cited in The Age, 28 November 1854, p. 5.
  19. ^ The Age, 4 December 1854, p. 5.
  20. ^ The Age, 24 February 1855, p. 5
  21. ^ John Vaughan, Flags under the Southern Cross and the Eureka Myth (2009) Australian National Flag Association newsletter <> 3
  22. ^ a b "Reclaiming the Radical Spirit of the Eureka Rebellion and Eureka Stockade of 1854". Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  23. ^ Walshe, R. D He Found and Raised Eureka's Trampled Flag: a Tribute to Len Fox
  24. ^ National Trust, First Victorian Icons Named
  25. ^ "Our Own Flag". Ausflag. Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  26. ^ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2006. Australian Flags. Australian Government Publishing Service ISBN 0-642-47134-7.
  27. ^ "Royal visit of William and Kate recalls Diana's Eureka moment". Sydney Morning Herald. 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-14. 
  28. ^ [2][dead link]
  29. ^ [3][dead link]
  30. ^ Ham, Larissa (27 October 2008). "Soccer bosses flag end to Eureka moments". The Age (Melbourne). 
  31. ^ Whitney Smith, Flags Through the Ages and Across the World (McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead, 1975) 78.
  32. ^ William Withers, 'The Eureka Stockade Flag', The Ballarat Star, 1 May 1896, 1.

External links[edit]