The Eureka Stockade

Australian Workers Film Guide


Broadcast on the Seven Network, this two part television miniseries is a historical dramatisation of the nationally significant Eureka Rebellion on the Victorian goldfields in 1854. As thousands of gold diggers descended on the Ballarat diggings from all over the world, the British colonial government introduced special mining licenses to regulate the inflow and profit from the rush, angering miners and stoking Australian nationalism against the British Crown. Considered the birthplace of Australian democracy, the battle of the Eureka Stockade lasted just 20 minutes and resulted in the deaths of around 27 miners and soldiers.

The miniseries recounts in detail the battle, the events leading up to it as well as its aftermath. The first episode establishes the miners’ grievances at the hands of the British oppressors and their corrupt authorities and police. The murder of James Scobie and the subsequent acquittal of James Bentley, is recounted, culminating in a riot and burning down of the Eureka Hotel.

The series makes a concerted effort to frame the rebellion as an American style war of independence, while underscoring the long standing struggle for independence from British occupation in Catholic Ireland. The Irish backgrounds of central characters such as Peter Lalor and Timothy Hayes are explored in depth, where we learn of the generational Irish rebellion against British oppression.

The final episode charts the rapid and mad descent into bloodshed as the ruthless and intransigent colonial authorities refuse to negotiate with the miners, resulting in the formation of a rebel ‘army’, the building of a defensive stockade and the final shameful attack by trained and well equipped soldiers on the hopelessly outgunned rebels. The aftermath of the battle highlights the loss of life and the deep personal cost for some of the characters. Peter Lalor escapes capture but is wounded and loses an arm.  Canadian Ross Charles is shot in the stomach at point blank range while surrendering, later succumbing to his wounds and leaving behind his soul mate Sarah Jamieson.

The series concludes with the trial of 13 miners for high treason in Melbourne and their subsequent acquittal to great public applause. Following the trial we learn that Peter Lalor became a politician and served as a Victorian Member of Parliament for over 30 years. He refused a knighthood.

Special Notes/Achievements

  • Broadcast on Seven Network in 1984.

Duration: 190 mins (2 Episodes)

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Film Key Cast: Bryan Brown – Peter Lalor, Bill Hunter – Timothy Hayes, Carol Burns – Anastasia Hayes, Amy Madigan – Sarah Jamieson, Brett Cullen – Charles Ross, Penelope Stewart – Alicia Dunn, Tom Burlinson – Father Smythe,

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