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Original Eureka Flag, Ballarat

It’s been 162 years since the Gold Rush started in Ballarat, but last week a man who had very little experience in prospecting managed to find a 5.5 kilogram nugget worth around half a million dollars.

Apparently his wife was a little miffed with him when he spent thousands of dollars on some new fangled metal detector. Needless to say, he’s had the last laugh, and I have a feeling she’s happy to have been proved wrong (just this once).

I’m sure I’m not the only one who immediately wished they’d tried the same thing. I was in Ballarat for the first time the week before this huge nugget was found and it didn’t even occur to me to go out prospecting. But the next time I’m there I have a feeling I’ll be getting my hands dirty.

The owner of the Mining Exchange Gold Shop in Ballarat, Cordell Kent, says he thinks this will lead to a lot of other people heading to Ballarat and trying their luck.

Even if they don’t find gold, one thing they will find in Ballarat is a great piece of Australian history.

The original Eureka flag is in Ballarat, and I don’t mind saying it took my breath away.

The original Eureka Flag

First, I wasn’t expecting it to be so big. The flag is around two and a half metres high and four metres wide – that’s 100 by 160 inches. As it’s in a slightly raised case, that brought me almost face face to face with the middle star.

The symbolism of the Eureka flag can lead to some heated debates. Some see it representing the birth of Australian democracy, others fear it has been highjacked by racists.

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For me, when I looked at it all I could think was how it played a part in an extraordinary moment in our history. It was THIS flag that the rebellion swore allegiance to, rejecting the Union Jack.

This was the very flag that flew above the miners when they clashed with police and soldiers at the Eureka Stockade on December 3rd, 1854 – a battle that lasted less than half an hour but claimed the lives of 33 miners and five soldiers.

Following the battle the flag was ripped down, attacked with swords and shot by colonial troops.

Bullet holes in the original Eureka Flag

The flag was loaned to the Ballarat Art Gallery by Isabella King, the widow of Trooper John King who had volunteered to capture the flag during the storming of the stockade.

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At first it was thought that it might be a replica, but when the flag was tested against a fragment that was known to have been cut off on the day of the Eureka Stockade, it proved to be the original one.

I visited the Eureka Flag in it’s old home at the Ballarat Art Gallery which is worth a visit regardless of whether the flag is under its roof.

Just a few months later, in April 2013 the flag was moved to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E), which has been built on the site of the old Eureka Centre.

You can now see the flag on display where it flew more than 150 years ago.

That’s a golden moment in my book.

Amanda Woods travelled as a guest of Ballarat Regional Tourism but as usual all thoughts and opinions remain her own. 

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  1. If the gold nugget wasn’t so big, I’d be tempted to think it’d been planted by the metal detector retailers!!! But with attractions like that fair dinkum piece of history on offer, visitors can find ‘gold’ one way or another!

    • Ha! Now there’s a thought! But you’re right… a nugget that big would have had folks talking in the past. Not quite the kind of thing you can bury again on the sly 🙂

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