History Lives: Event a milestone for Bendigo

THE Bendigo Historical Society will commemorate the 161st anniversary of the Red Ribbon Movement on Wednesday, August 27, in Rosalind Park, starting at 11am. 

Bendigonians are urged to join the students, members of the Bendigo Historical Society and the Chewton Domain for this event. A free sausage sizzle supplied by the Bendigo South Rotary Club is available for all.

This event from 1853 is a significant milestone in Bendigo’s rich history and represents a giant step towards democracy in Victoria, coming after the Monster Meeting on the Forest Creek diggings of 1851, with both events preceding the Eureka Stockade at Ballarat. 

The meeting at Golden Point was attended by an estimated 14,000 miners, with a similar number of diggers at the Red Ribbon protests. 

It should be stressed that both events were peaceful, the result of firm action and compromise by the miners and the Commissioners at each goldfield.

The Bendigo Petition, signed by thousands of miners, was originally more than 30 metres in length. One of the key sections of the Petition read:

‘‘Your Petitioners pray your Excellency to Grant the following Petition.

First – To direct that the License Fee be reduced to Ten Shillings a Month.’’ 

Amongst those who signed the petition were two women, Florence Foley and Sarah Williamson. 

Other names that were well known at the time include J.H. Abbott, Theodore Ballerstedt, Robert Benson, Captain Brown, W.D.C. Denovan, Dr Jones, Captain Harrison and George Thomson. 

Some, like Abbott and Denovan, were to remain well known for quite some time after the events of July and August 1853 – the time of the Red Ribbon Agitation. 

The signatories included shopkeepers, brickmakers, butchers and shoemakers, for in Bendigo, everyone was a miner. 

It was the rejection of this petition by Governor LaTrobe that led the miners to hold mass meetings, culminating on August 27 when thousands met, in the rain, near the Government Camp. 

The miners wore a red ribbon as a symbol of protest against the gold license fee of 30 shillings a month. 

This idea was suggested by William Dexter and it was fortunate that red clothing was very common on the goldfields, being the colour of shirts and even underwear. The Diggers’ Banner, designed by Dexter, consisted of the cradle, shovel and pick, scales of justice, bundle of sticks and the kangaroo and emu on a red background. People of all nationalities and from all continents took part in the protest.

It was George Thomson, together with Captain Harrison and Captain Brown, who offered Commissioners Panton and Wright the sum of 10 shillings for the September license on August 27 and though this was rejected, the Commissioners did not collect the fee for that month.

The license fee may be regarded as a tax on labour or a rent and in the protest may be seen the birth of both the major political parties of today.

Bendigo Historical Society all-day bus excursion

To Heathcote and the Costerfield Gold and Antimony Mine on Saturday, September 13. Bus leaves from All Seasons at 9am. Bring own lunch or buy at Heathcote. Cost $20 payable at Specimen Cottage on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 4pm. 

Includes Heathcote Museum, mine visit and afternoon tea at Costerfield Hall. Bus will return at 4pm. 

For details, phone 5441 3443 on Tuesdays or Thursdays.


Shamrock Hotel every Sunday at 2pm. Cost $10 includes cake and coffee. Book at the Shamrock on 5443 0333.

Specimen Cottage (178-80 Hargreaves Street) every Tuesday at 11am. Cost $5 includes morning tea.

Visit the Bendigo Historical Society website at www.bendigohistory.com

The Diggers' Banner.

The Diggers' Banner.

George Thomson

George Thomson

Captain Harrison

Captain Harrison


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