We Swear by the Southern Cross: Investigations of Eureka and its Legacy to Australia's Democrac

December 3, 2004 marks the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion. A 60-page book examining the history and enduring legacy of the Eureka Rebellion was commissioned by the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet and written by Curriculum Corporation for teachers and students across Australia.

The resource explores the Eureka Rebellion through a series of investigations which ask students to critically examine the events leading up to the stockade, the people involved, the causes and the lasting effects of the rebellion.

'The Eureka story' is a broad narrative history of Eureka that provides a background and context for the investigations that follow. This narrative is a contemporary view of Eureka that examines the debates, contests and conversations that still surround the Eureka story.

The investigations are structured to engage and challenge students in inquiry-based learning about particular historical issues and themes which lead to activities in which students explore contemporary connections to these themes. The investigations are designed as stand-alone mini units of work and they can be undertaken by individuals, small groups or the whole group.

The units are significant for an understanding of contemporary Australia in the following areas:

  • migration and multiculturalism
  • dissent and rule of law in a democracy
  • commemoration and identity
  • symbols and heritage.

Investigation 1: A question of people power? explores the multicultural backgrounds of the Ballarat rebels and the wider issue of the impact of the mass migration to the goldfields.

Investigation 2: Leaders in crisis? asks if the tragic events of Eureka were the result of failed leadership. Students explore the notion of 'leadership' and examine the attitudes and actions of key players on both sides of the stockade.

Investigation 3: Dissent or treason? investigates the actions of the rebel diggers and those of the ruling government and asks if the breakdown in law and order at Eureka was a case of noble resistance to tyranny or an act of treason. Students consider the role of dissent and protest in the life of a vibrant democracy.

Investigation 4: How do we remember and commemorate Eureka? investigates the way Eureka has been commemorated throughout 150 years, how its significance and meaning has changed and how it has become a part of Australian identity.

Investigation 5: Then and now – what does the Eureka flag mean to Australians explores the history of the flag. In doing so the investigation raises the question of how symbols acquire meaning over time.

The resource has been designed for use in lower and middle level secondary SOSE and HSIE curriculums.

We Swear by the Southern Cross has an outstanding selection of visual source material, and links to Discovering Democracy, contemporary history in the Commonwealth History Project, Sovereign Hill Education Services, the Eureka Centre, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, SBS and the Public Record Office Victoria.