|Miners thoughtfully providing Her Majesty's Forces live fire and bayonet practice targets|
Those familiar with the English Civil War and the American Revolution will be familiar with the cause; No taxation without representation!
Miners were forced to buy a license to be permitted to prospect for gold. They maintained that it was an onerous imposition on free enterprise, the more so that they were not allowed the vote. Enforcement of the license by authorities was heavy handed and corrupt, Further exacerbating ill-feelings. Protests against the license escalated until they got out of hand with the death of a miner and the burning down of the Eureka Hotel in revenge after the hotel owner was acquitted of the murder. Radicalised miners built a stockade in Ballarat and swore an oath under the Southern Cross flag.
In the subsequent trial of the ringleaders, they were all acquitted of charges of High Treason by a sympathetic jury. Leader Peter Lalor eventually became a pillar of the establishment, elected to Parliament and eventually becoming Speaker of the House!
I have a family connection to the rebellion. On my paternal grandmother's side of the family, an ancestor was involved as a messenger on the rebel side, as he was too young to fight. I'll have to do a bit of genealogical investigation to get the full story.
Unfortunately the flag has been co-opted by all sorts of causes, from the far-left militant unions who view the affair through a Marxist lens as workers asserting their rights against the bosses, to the far-right who use it as a nationalist symbol of exclusion. In reality the rebellion was more like a protest of small businessmen against the stifling hand of bureaucracy, not that of the oppressed workers and definitely not a white-power struggle. The protesters had a large foreign flavour with miners from all over Britain and Europe and especially the USA.