Forest Creek Monster Meeting
The Forest Creek Monster Meeting was an organised protest at Forest Creek in Victoria, Australia against the increase in Miner's Licence fee planned by the colonial government of Victoria. Although it was one of several similar protests held around the colony, it is notable as the largest known mass rally held during the Australian gold rushes.
In December the government announced that it intended to triple the licence fee from £1 to £3 a month, from 1 January 1852.
On 15 December 1851 estimates of between 14,000 and 20,000 miners gathered for the first mass meeting of diggers, as the miners were known, at Forest Creek. The notices put about the diggings by a person who called himself "A Digger" in advance of the meeting advertised it as a 'Monster Meeting'. The Miners' Flag, also known as the standard of Australian reform, flew at this meeting for the first time.
The rally was largely successful as the government hastily withdrew its plans to increase the miner's licence fee.
The meeting took place at the site of a shepherd's hut, an out station of William Campbell's sheep run 'Strathloddon" which was built around 3 miles south of Major Thomas Mitchell's line of road at the junction of Wattle and Forest creeks in the 1840s. It was claimed at the time that between 12 to 20 thousand people attended the meeting that day, a far greater number than any meeting of gold diggers before or since.
The site of the shepherd's hut was rediscovered after research by Glenn Braybrook, a local historian and longtime resident of Chewton. Glenn was helped by fellow Chewton resident, John Ellis, who supplied Glenn with a map he had been given by Barbra James, another local historian. Barbra had written on the map that she had thought the map was one of an area further to the North by writing "Parish of Faraday" on the map. She seemed to have no idea where or what the map represented.
Glenn recognised the site by its similarity to other maps he had seen.
Glenn enlisted the help of his father, Ian Braybrook, who accompanied Glenn to the area where he thought the monster meeting site was. That afternoon they found the site again. Although some said it was in another place to the South, and others had thought the site was to the North, Glenn and Ian proved that afternoon that they had found the spot. By looking at the drawings done in 1851 they found and stood on the exact site of the old shepherds hut, one of the most significant sites in Australian history.
Recently much has been made of the Monster meeting site by various historians and others.
The site is now marked with a cairn placed there in the original spot by members of the Ballarat Reform League. Locals gather annually to commemorate the event.
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