BENDIGO will mark the 2021 anniversary of the Red Ribbon Rebellion in silence on Friday, 168 years after huge crowds filled Rosalind Park to fight for democracy.
But commemorations including both a dinner and reenactment will take place when lockdown restrictions are eased.
The Red Ribbon Rebellion took place in 1853 and has come to be seen as a milestone moment in pro-democracy protests leading up to the blood-soaked gun battle at Ballarat's Eureka Stockade, when soldiers attacked miners.
Bendigo's protests were peaceful and have long been commemorated by school children who gather to reenact the march.
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Historian Jim Evans said it was disappointing to not be able to impart the lessons from the protests onto children this year but understandable given statewide COVID-19 outbreaks.
"It's about democracy and peaceful protest against an unelected government, which was the case back in 1853," he said.
"It involved pretty much the whole population of Bendigo at the time. It was not just the miners, it was shopkeepers, men and women."
Many of them objected to an expensive mining licence everyone on the goldfield had to carry.
Governor Joseph LaTrobe had imposed the licences at the urging of an unelected landowning elite as the colony struggled through an economic downturn.
"What they should have done was impose an excise on gold going out of the country but they preferred to hit the people who could least afford it," Mr Evans said.
"So you paid the licence fee every month whether you found gold or not."
Mr Evans had planned to speak about the protest at a dinner at Bendigo Trades Hall to commemorate the anniversary but that will now be postponed.
The building overlooks the spot where protesters gathered for the Red Ribbon Rebellion but the wider union movement has a deeper connection to the protest.
"It did lead to the formation of the trade unions," Mr Evans said.
The pro-democracy movement also defined the contours of the political groups that would replace undemocratic rulers.
Both the Australian Labor Party and Liberal Party can both chart the movements they were founded on back to people who spoke at rallies on Victoria's goldfields.
Many of those leaders would eventually be elected to Victoria's parliament, including one who was punched in the face during an unrelated incident years later.
That incident featured in a recent Bendigo Weekly story about a torrid 1871 election rally gatecrashed by rival supporters.
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