Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembering - the war to end all wars : the Charter of Rights at Bakery Hill, the first document of participatory democracy in Australia

Cross posted with permission  from Advocacy @ St Paul's

To-night at 6.30pm at St Paul's Anglican Church, 3-5 Humffray Street, Bakery Hill, Ballarat, Advocacy@ St Paul's is joining with the Ballarat Trades & Labour Council to celebrate the Charter of Rights, drafted by the English chartist John Basson Humffray who was a leading figure in the events leading up to and surrounding the Eureka Rebellion. Members of the modern-day Ballarat Reform League are interested too.  The site on which St Paul's is located is believed to be the site of the "Monster Meeting" of 10,000 miners who gathered to hear the Charter of Rights.  Hedley Thomson, Chair of Advocacy @ St Paul's, will read the Charter of Rights. Brett Edgington, Secretary of the Ballarat Trades & Labour Council, will speak.  The Charter of Rights is Australia's first document relating to the concept of participatory democracy.

To-day is not only the anniversary of the Charter of Rights. It is Remembrance Day, the day when we commemorate "the war to end all wars".  Below is a letter written earlier this year by Hedley Thomson with reference to the idea of 'nation building' in which he references the events of Eureka. If you want to let us know that you are coming, please go here.

14th May 2015

The Editor
‘Ballarat Courier’
PO Box 21
Ballarat, 3353

Dear sir,

In the lead up to the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the ‘nation building’ significance of the event was often mentioned. This assertion needs to be challenged. Aside from the disaster that was Gallipoli, for three quarters of a century prior, European settlers had a clear-eyed view that the Australian landmass would one day comprise one nation. For example:
1840s – colonial governments agreed that there should be one railway gauge to facilitate trade and transport throughout what would one day be a single nation. The fact that the one gauge objective was not achieved was to do with subsequent technical decisions, not a change of vision.
  • 1854 – the Eureka rising – no civil war was required to affirm the commitment to establishing a parliamentary democracy; the death of two-dozen people was enough. What’s more, Eureka was a multi-cultural event at a time when Australia was the most multi cultural ‘nation’ on Earth.
  • 1860s onwards - the Australian Constitution was developed over 40 years by the ‘founding fathers’, including Ballarat’s own Alfred Deakin. Here was true leadership, providing us with a parliamentary and electoral system with a sensible pragmatic structure to ensure representative democratic government.
  • 1880s – the works of Henry Lawson and other writers, with their strong references to a sense of being Australian, independent of spirit, the mother country left behind.
  • 1901 – Federation – the culmination of the past 60 years’ work.

On the basis of this history of Australia, it is arguable that our ‘nation’ was more independent, self-supporting and self-assured then than we are now! 

Hedley Thomson

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