The Eureka Stockade is one of the defining moments of Australian history. The discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851 lead to an influx of people from all over the world hoping to make their fortune. While some struck it rich, the majority barely scrapped a living. Many suffered great hardship made worse by the license fees imposed on the miners, a fee enforced by regular and aggressive police license hunts.
It is into this world that Molly and her father arrive from London, after a nine-month sea voyage. They met Chen a young Chinese boy who is prepared to share his knowledge and his small area and helps when Molly’s father is accosted by a policeman about his mining license. Money is scare, most having been spent on the license and tools and they had not found any gold.
There was much discontent amongst the miners with reports that the miners were going to build a stockade, arm themselves and refuse to pay the license fee. In November 1854, 10,000 miners met to protest arrests and issue demands to the authorities. These demands were ignored and on December 3, 1854, soldiers and police attacked the Stockade with a loss of lives on both sides.
Sadly, Molly’s father was killed in the Stockade attack however Chen survived. The following year, having found enough gold, Chen and Molly left the goldfields and opened a store in Ballarat and in 1858, Chen and Molly were married.
‘Eureka! A Story of the Goldfields’ was inspired by the true story of Catherine Martin and Pan Ah Shin who met on the goldfields and eventually married. The story touches on the racism and abuse that the Chinese miners and workers had to deal with and an interesting discussion point would be how a marriage between a Chinese man and English woman would have been viewed at that time.
The artwork is photo-realism in acrylic on canvas and is central to the story. The front cover depicts Molly and Chen panning for gold together which gives a strong hint to the theme of the book. The illustrations are colourful and feature portrait style images interspersed with historic images of miner’s licences, anti-Chinese banners and newspaper cuttings. At the back there is historic information about the rebellion. The endpapers portray the moment immediately before the battle begins.
The Eureka Stockade was an important event in Australian history, a turning point that forms part of the pathway to Australia’s Federation.