From the album Frontier
Beneath the Southern Cross tells the story of the Eureka Stockade revolution. Australia's population quadrupled from 430,000 in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871 thanks to the gold rushes. Those who came here envisaged a life in a free land full of wealth and promise. The reality for many was that they made little income from months of digging. It was a complete gamble - while one 'digger' could make his fortune with a strike, the fellow next to him may still go home penniless. So when the Victorian Government decided to introduce a license fee the diggers were outraged - and the rage simmered. When a local hotelier - James Bentley - was acquitted of the murder of James Scobie the crowd sensed corruption and the fuse was lit. Bentley's hotel was burnt to the ground, while soldiers were sent from Melbourne to quell the violence. Amid it all, the miners built a stockade - the Eureka Stockade - and declared beneath a makeshift flag of the Southern Cross 'We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties!'
The redcoats attacked on the morning of Sunday 3rd December, 1854. At least 27 people were killed - the majority miners - and the redcoats were accused of committing numerous atrocities against the people in the immediate aftermath.
13 of the approximately 120 diggers believed involved were brought before the courts, but not a single digger was convicted.
The rebel leader Peter Lalor was subsequently elected to parliament, and so the rebellion is frequently referred to as 'the birthplace of Australian democracy'.
Beneath the Southern Cross
Copyright 2016 Craig Stewart
Beneath the Southern Cross we stand,
A brave new people in a brand new land,
Our rights and liberties will not be lost,
Beneath the Southern Cross
Well the diggings were aglow, with the hunting of the fees,
Every time the cry of 'Joe' sent us running for the trees,
Treated as criminals in the land of the free,
We knew our time would come.
It started with the murder down and Bentley's hotel,
And the fire that it stirred when he beat the cell,
No trust in justice, the crowd did swell,
Beneath the southern sun,
A revolution had begun.
So they sent their soldiers up from Melbourne town,
But we met 'em with boulders and knocked 'em down,
The fight of right against the might of crown,
Had only just begun.
Roll up, roll up boys to Bakery Hill,
To listen to Lalor and declare your will.
Beneath a flag of stars the diggers all did kneel,
And vowed to stand as one,
Against the bayonet and gun.
But then come Sunday mornin',
The redcoats all came callin.
Well there were those who fled and those who died,
They cut us down from every side.
But to see the Southern Cross dragged down,
And trampled through the bloodied ground,
Turned the people's voice into a roar,
We'd lost the fight but we won the war.
For not a jury stood within the land,
That would convict a broken man,
For standing up the best he can.