The Ballarat Reform League Inc. (BRL) was formed to honour the memory and achievements of the original Ballaarat Reform League. BRL Inc. first met in December 1999 and was incorporated in February 2000
Why does Ballarat have two spellings?
Ballaarat is the older spelling which was commonly used in the 1800's. It may have been derived from two words of the Wathawarrung people: balla and arat, meaning resting place. This spelling was later simplified to Ballarat, though both versions co-existed until 1994 when Ballarat was officially adopted as the correct spelling.
The Ballarat Reform League Inc.
Our first project, The Monument Project, was launched in 2003 to place plaques and monuments on sites across the Victorian goldfields where significant actions occurred that culminated in the formation of the Ballarat Reform League at a public meeting on 11 November 1854. These actions grew to a climax on 3 December 1854 in the battle at the stockade on the Eureka lead in Ballarat.
The project was made possible by the generous support of The Vera Moore Foundation and with advice from Professor Weston Bate.
To date plaques and monuments have been placed at the following sites:
The former Star Hotel, Main Road, Ballarat, the meeting place of the Ballarat Reform League in 1854.
Hiscock Gully Road Buninyong where gold was officially first discovered in August 1851 in Victoria and where the first protest meeting was held when the government announced it would charge an onerous licence fee.
Chewton (Forest Creek) where the first Monster Meeting was held on 15 December 1851 objecting to the government’s unjust and exorbitant tax on gold diggers and its plans to increase that tax.
Beechworth at Madman’s Gully, near 124 Stanley Road. It was here that the first demand for political representation in the Victorian Legislative Council was made on 2 April 1853.
Bendigo A Monster Meeting was held on Camp Hill on 28 August 1853 to protest against the licence fee and the way it was policed. Known as The Red Ribbon Agitation it resulted in suspension of the licence for September 1853, a victory for compromise and commonsense.
Creswick A plaque was placed at the entrance to Calambeen Park to mark the angry protest of diggers in October 1854 against the oppressive licence system. On 29 November many Creswick diggers set out for Ballarat to support the Ballarat Reform League’s protest.
Bakery Hill, Ballarat First plaque. It was here on 11 November 1854 at a Monster Meeting that the Ballarat Reform League Charter was unanimously adopted calling for manhood suffrage and full and fair representation. The Ballarat Reform League was officially formed.
Bakery Hill, Ballarat Second plaque. It was at Bakery Hill that on 29 November 1854 at a Monster Meeting, held around the new flag, the Southern Cross, the diggers learnt of the failure of talks with Governor Hotham and the Ballarat Reform League representatives. In anger the diggers voted to burn their licences.
On 30 November two further meetings were held calling for allegiance to the Eureka flag, the Southern Cross:
'We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and defend our rights and liberties.'
The Eureka Stockade, Eureka Street, Ballarat.
Protest had turned to resistance, which the authorities interpreted as insurrection. On 3 December 1854 a superior government force attacked a makeshift stockade. Many lives were lost in an unnecessary battle and the government was condemned.
Our second project was begun in 2014 to establish a wiki website to eventually include all Eureka related documents, images and information, including biographies of people involved.
Eurekapedia offers reliable, referenced and moderated information for free for an online audience. Eureka is significant in Australia’s political and social history. Eurekapedia records this history.
Charles A. Doudiet 'Swearing allegiance to the Southern Cross', 1854, Watercolour.
Purchased with the assistance of many donors, 1996.
Reproduced with permission of The Art Gallery of Ballarat
The Ballarat Reform League
The original Ballaarat Reform League was active for only a brief time around October and November 1854.
A committee that was known to meet at The Star Hotel in Main Road, Ballarat, had reportedly been initially formed to organise the defence of prisoners taken for the burning of Bentley's Hotel (17th October 1854). The committee went on to discuss and formulate a Charter outlining such goals as manhood suffrage and full and fair representation.
The Ballaarat Reform League was a movement that grew out of the frustration that the diggers felt with their treatment on the goldfields.
The new Victorian government had within a month of the official discovery of gold in Victoria in August 1851, imposed a large licence fee for the right to dig for gold. The fee was unpopular but the even greater irritant was the heavy handed, and at times corrupt, administration of the goldfields by the local officials. Eventually collecting licence fees became armed hunts.
The feelings of the diggers is expressed in this excerpt from the Ballarat Times 28 October 1854:
It is not fines, imprisonments, taxation and bayonets that is required to keep a people tranquil and content. It is attention to their wants and their just rights alone that will make the miners content.
The protests against the injustice of their treatment began in Buninyong in August 1851 and as the search for gold spread across Victoria so also did the protests and the calls to the government to listen and to remedy the situation.
The Ballaarat Reform League was the final movement seeking to broker a peaceful deal. Its calls to the government were ignored. The brief battle at the Eureka stockade which followed was an unnecessary battle for which the government stood condemned. The peaceful goals of the Ballaarat Reform League were achieved but at the terrible cost of many lives.
"The Ballarat Reform League could be counted a very successful political movement
- the envy of its Chartist antecedents in Britain ... its basic demands won in 1855."
Anne Beggs Sunter, The Ballarat Reform League. A History
The Ballaarat Reform League and the events of Eureka were central to the development of Australia as an independent democratic country.
There is much to honour