The rebellion was caused by a number of issues within the gold fields. The miners were suffering from a number of injustices. They had no political rights; they were not allowed to vote in elections nor were they entitled to a representative in the Legislative Council, and they were treated unjustly by the blatantly brutal and corrupt government officials. However, their main grievance was the excessive and overpriced gold mining license, which cost thirty shillings each month to renew. Most of the miners’ found it nearly impossible to pay the ridiculously priced mining fee and still meet the cost of living, on the scarce and barely sufficient amount of money they had.
The miners’ were required to carry their licenses with them at all times, if they were found without their license they could be fined or imprisoned. The dreaded “License Hunts” were soon brought in. License Hunts gave police the liberty to check a miner’s license at random. Those found without a license were liable to severe fines and unjust imprisonment and punishment. Most of the police were unsatisfactory, as many of them were ex-convicts and guards; because of this many of the officers were inclined to violence and brutality during a License Hunt. The officers’ brutality and unjust behaviour further infuriated the miners and made the Ballarat Gold-Fields’ police subject to much hatred.
Corrupt Officialdom was a heady problem on the gold fields. In one instance, a group of men beat a drunken Scottish digger to death, the group included local publican James Bentley. James was a friend of the local magistrate; because of this he and the other three men escaped persecution. The miners were appalled. A group of three miners went to Bentley’s hotel and burnt it to the ground in defiance. It was not too soon after that the men were charged with arson.
On the 11th of November 1854, ten thousand miners met to demand the release of the three men, the right for all males to vote and the abolition of the miners license; this meeting led to the formation of the Ballarat Reform League. Several of the Reform League leaders had also been involved with the Chartist movement in England.
On the 29th of November of that same year, twelve thousand people at Bakery Hill watched as the Southern Cross flag, otherwise known as the Eureka Flag, was unveiled for the first time. The flag became the symbol of their struggle; the miners burned their licenses and fired shots into the air under the flag in an act of triumph and defiance. The next...