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International Movements

Many of the diggers on the Victorian goldfields were activists whose political consciousness and cultural position differed radically from those of their indentured countrymen who were largely motivated by the quest for economic opportunity. The political agency of the agitators for political reform in Victoria was based on their experiences in their home countries, with the motivation for Raffaello Carboni; for example, to depart from Europe (along with other political activists of 1848) being concerned more with a yearning for greater personal autonomy than a desire for material benefit.

Some, such as the hero of Eureka, Peter Lalor, have come to encapsulate the zeitgeist of the era. The contradictory events of Lalor’s public life serve as a case in point. Many see him as an Irish Catholic miners' hero of Eureka who lost his arm defending his comrades during the pitched battle - yet Lalor later entered the Legislative Council, the conservative upper chamber of the Victorian Parliament. Here he sat as a conformist member who supported the employment of Chinese labour in order to curtail the claims of the Victorian labour movement, and whose radical industrial agenda was aggressively anti-Chinese in its sentiment.

Interestingly, other political dissidents came from China: the Red Turban émigrés who were forced to flee from their country. However, although the separate protests in Victoria by the European and Chinese miners had their antecedents in old world settings, it was in Victoria that the political and cultural complexity of these two situations was made manifest.

Keir Reeves

Blake, Les, Peter Lalor: the man from Eureka, Neptune Press, Belmont, 1979. Details
Carboni, Raffaello, The Eureka Stockade: the consequence of some pirates wanting on quarter-deck a rebellion, Printed for the author by J.P. Atkinson, Melbourne, 1855. Details
Clark, C. M. H., A history of Australia, vol. 4, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1968. Details
Goodman, David, Gold seeking: Victoria and California in the 1850s, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1994. Details
Kiernan, C., 'Peter Lalor, the enigma of Eureka', in Labour and the gold fields, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra, 1968. Details
Oddie, G. A., The Chinese in Victoria, 1870-1890, 1959. Details
O'Farrell, Patrick, The Irish in Australia: 1788 to present, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2000. Details
Walshe, R. D., Australia's fight for independence and parliamentary democracy: centenary of responsible government, 1856-1956, Current Book Distributors, Sydney, 1956. Details
Ward, Russel, The Australian legend, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1970. Details