The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a four-page handwritten manifesto of democratic principles and demands, presented to Governor Hotham in November 1854, a few weeks before the Eureka rebellion. The Charter is handwritten on watermarked government blue paper, folded into four foolscap-sized pages containing the text of the charter adopted by over 10,000 miners and storekeepers on Bakery Hill on the Ballarat goldfields on 11 November 1854, establishing its authority to represent the opinion of the majority of the adult population of Ballarat. The Southern Cross flag, designed and adopted by the Ballarat Reform League, was flown for the first time at this meeting. The Charter was presented to Governor Hotham on 27 November by representatives of this meeting, who also demanded the release of three prisoners arrested for burning a Ballarat hotel. This is a clerk's copy of the original Charter, held by the Public Records Office, Victoria. The original has not survived, and its format is unknown. The copy was created for administrative purposes by the Governor's office at the time it was received by Governor Hotham. It has markings on it indicating it was created by the Governor's office and that it was the copy read by Governor Hotham.
The Charter was transferred to the Archives Division of the State Library of Victoria in 1961 from the Office of the Governor of Victoria. It was part of a consignment of Governor's Inwards Correspondence. The Archives Division of the State Library of Victoria is the predecessor of Public Record Office Victoria, which came into existence as the independent Victorian state archive in 1973.
The Charter, written by members of the Ballarat Reform League and representing the aspirations and demands of the mining community of Ballarat, was instrumental in the campaigns for democratic reform in the Colony of Victoria. The Charter expresses universal democratic values, drawn from Chartist and other international democratic movements of its time. It asserted that the people are the only legitimate source of political power and demanded the abolition of the hated licence system, manhood suffrage, payment of members of parliament and no property qualification.
The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a manifesto that spelled out an agenda for political reform. Written by people who had been involved in democratic movements in their home countries, the Charter is a unique manifestation, in an Australian colonial context, of British Chartism and the ideas of European and North American democratic and liberal movements. The authors of the Charter drew on their experiences on the goldfields and on these ideals when formulating their solution to the pressing issues of goldfields reform. The Charter was a rallying point for the Ballarat miners, and storekeepers' assertion of their civil liberties, their need for greater participation in the political process in Victoria and their demands for changes to the administration of the goldfields. Significantly, the democratic reforms achieved in Victoria as a result of these campaigns occurred before reforms in other nation states around the world.
The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a central feature of the Eureka story, one of the most significant and influential events in Australia's political and social history. The events and people associated with the Eureka rebellion have been continuously commemorated and interpreted through Australian film, literature, television, radio, academic research, song, folklore, artworks, and in exhibitions and museums around Australia.
How is it significant?
Ballarat Reform League Charter is historically and socially significant to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Ballarat Reform League Charter is historically significant in the history of democracy in Victoria and as a central feature of the Eureka story, one of the most significant and influential events in Australia's political and social history. The Charter is also of historical significance as an expression of the Ballarat Reform League as a political movement and a forerunner of organised labour in Australia.
Ballarat Reform League Charter is socially significant as it is widely seen as having ongoing relevance to the Australian people and their democratic institutions. The struggle for democratic reform, as expressed in the Charter and the Eureka rebellion, is of fundamental significance to our understanding of Australian society and democratic institutions.