Wednesday we carried on towards the coast, stopping at Ballarat. Ballarat is much the same as Bendigo and other rich mining towns. There are several monuments along the high street one in particular is for the Welcome Stranger. This is the largest gold nugget found in the world, weighing over 69kg! The main highlight in Ballarat is Sovereign Hill, a recreated gold mining town.
We both really enjoyed Sovereign Hill. There was lots to do, we watched a blacksmith pour $114,000 worth of gold into a bar. Then we watched the red coats fire their muskets and parade through town. We took a tour of the diggings where all the miners lived and we went on the Red Hill mine tour where we learned about the conditions the miners worked in. We also saw a wheelwrighter making a wheel, and of course tried our luck at panning for gold. We didn't find any. Afterwards we had a look around all the old shops and even found a bowling alley. The locals were very friendly, one of them said we looked like Germans, which pleased Rachel.
In the evening we went to the 'Blood on the Southern Cross' show. This was fantastic, it told us the story of the Eureka stockade and was really exciting. It started off showing us a short film about the gold fields. Then we headed out to the diggings where we heard some of the miners stories. At the beginning of the gold rush it was said you could be tripping over nuggets in Victoria. After the shallow gold was found people struggled to find any gold and the miners had it tough. They had to pay for a miners license every three months whether they found gold or not. After exploring the diggings some very sci-fi looking busses arrived and took us on the next part of the journey.
We left the busses and sat in a small theatre. As the lights were turned down the side of the building retracted to reaveal a reconstruction of the Eureka stockade site outside. A sound and light show then followed telling us the story that led to a battle between the miners and the red coats. The miners were becoming more and more frustrated with the tax placed upon them in order to look for gold and the way in which it was policed. The miners had to pay the tax just to be on the gold field.
A few of the miners gathered a petition to try to change how the gold fields were run, with little effect. One evening one of the miners was murdered by the landlord of the local pub. The police did nothing as most were on his payroll. The miners were outraged and tested the authority of the police b burning their miners licenses. A few of the miners decided to baracade themselves in the gold field and refused to pay for their miners licenses. The police, determined to quell the uprising, attacked the poorly defended miners at their most vunerable as many of the men had left the gold fields as it was a Sunday. Over 200 soldiers and police attacked the makeshift stockade in the early hours and 22 miners were killed in the 15 minute battle. 13 men were arrested and tried for treason, all were aquited. 12 months later the lwas were changed and the miners license replaced with a miners right, which gave them more control over the running of the gold field and a voice in parliament.