© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2013 Fellowship of Australian Writers North Shore branch ‘Vibrant Verse competition’.

Eureka mine still smoulders from the everlasting flame,
that forged Australian culture in a crucible of shame.
Spontaneous combustion, under brutal British law,
ignited an inferno and a dreadful civil war.

Infuriated miners had refused to pay the fees
that crippled and deprived them, bringing many to their knees.
They bled for their convictions and their persecuted mates,
who’d suffered at the hands of troopers, thugs and reprobates.

Policed by Gold Commissioner, the pompous Robert Read,
they’d suffered persecution, judged by colour, class and creed.
He’d sparked a revolution, and then quenched its fiery blaze,
without negotiating or attempting to liaise.

American republicans had paved the way before
and showed the world that unity could open any door.
The seeds of revolution from ten thousand miles away,
had germinated in Eureka’s mines of barren clay.

They’d taken root inside of every patriotic heart,
that beat in time and synchronised a nation torn apart.
The ravaged soils of Ballarat surrendered more than gold;
those seeds that they had planted would return one hundred fold.

Into this brewing cauldron strode an Irish diplomat,
an educated gentleman and fiery democrat.
His name was Peter Lalor, and he held a strong rapport
with miners who had travelled here from every foreign shore.

A stockade was erected and the battle lines were drawn,
this confrontation looming long before these men were born.
Their European ancestors knew tyranny as well,
and suffered persecution worse than words could ever tell.

Our diggers stood united as their resolution grew,
beneath a flag of silver stars on pure Australian blue.
A blue for southern skies, when European skies were grey,
and blue for native eucalypts, when viewed from far away.

The ‘Crux Australis’ Southern Cross had come to symbolise
the birth of our democracy and monarchy’s demise;
our freedom from an Anglo yoke of bondage and despair,
that hovered like a cloud above Eureka’s troubled air.

From twilight’s murky shadows squads of soldiers had converged
and fell into formation as their swollen ranks had surged.
Their presence was unnerving in the early morning light,
appearing almost gaudy in their British red and white.

A fusillade of leaden fire had rung like Satan’s knell,
as thirty men had lost their lives in half an hour of hell.
Victorian police had also joined that fatal fray,
dispatching wounded miners as they fled in disarray.

Although they’d lost the battle they had clearly won the war
and implemented changes to that brutal British law.
The miners who had fought and died had left a legacy −
to each and every one of us − ‘for we are young and free.’

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