The goldfields of Ballarat in 1854 were a place of discontent
and the main cause of that discontent was the license required
before anyone could dig for gold.
The resentment against the licence was not only over the high
license fee of 30 shillings a month, but the methods used to
carry out license searches. The 'traps' would ask for licenses
at the most inconvenient times, sometimes as much as three times
in the one day, and no excuses were allowed. Anyone who didn't
have their license on their person would be arrested. Also, the
license, in itself, was considered unfair as the diggers could
not vote - taxation without representation.
It was while feelings against the license were running high,
that James Scobie was killed after paying a late night visit to
the Eureka Hotel. All evidence pointed towards the publican of
the hotel, William Bentley, but he was acquitted. As the diggers
felt this was only because he was friendly with the right
people, it added to their grievances and their sense of being
A meeting was held outside the Eureka Hotel - one of its
purposes being to offer a reward to anyone who could supply
evidence for Scobie's murder. It began peacefully, but a smashed
window fuelled further attacks of vandalism, which ended in the
Eureka Hotel being burnt to the ground.
Three people were arrested and given various sentences of
between 3 to 6 months, which were considered unfair by the
diggers, especially as the three arrested were not responsible.
They demanded the release of the prisoners, and their demands
A monster meeting was held at Bakery Hill. A new flag was
hoisted of the Southern Cross on a blue background. The diggers
gave an oath and threw their licenses in the fire. Predictably
enough, further license raids were carried out and the mood on
the goldfields became rebellious.
They built a stockade on Eureka Hotel and those that didn't
have weapons armed themselves with pikes. The flag of the
Southern Cross held a prominent place. But by Saturday evening,
most of the diggers were disheartened, bored and hungry and many
of them returned to their homes.
Early on Sunday morning, the Stockade was attacked, when only
about 150 diggers were left. Approximately 30 diggers and 5
soldiers were killed.
The leader of the rebellion, Peter Lalor, was seriously
injured. He was hidden during the battle and later removed to a
safe place, where his arm was amputated. Later on, the leaders
were acquitted of any crime and Peter Lalor became a politician.