The Ballarat Reform League Inc. (BRL) was formed to honour the memory and achievements of the original Ballaarat Reform League. BRL first met in December 1999 and was incorporated in January 2000.
The original Ballaarat Reform League was active for only a brief time around October and November 1854.
A committee that was known to meet at The Star Hotel in Main Road, Ballarat, had reportedly been initially formed to organise the defence of prisoners taken for the burning of Bentley’s Hotel (17th October 1854). The committee went on to discuss and formulate a Charter outlining such goals as manhood suffrage and full and fair representation.
The Ballaarat Reform League was a movement that grew out of the frustration that the diggers felt with their treatment on the goldfields.
The new Victorian government had within a month of the official discovery of gold in Victoria in August 1851, imposed a large licence fee for the right to dig for gold. The fee was unpopular but the even greater irritant was the heavy handed, and at times corrupt, administration of the goldfields by the local officials. Eventually collecting licence fees became armed hunts.
The feelings of the diggers is expressed in this excerpt from the Ballarat Times 28 October 1854:
It is not fines, imprisonments, taxation and bayonets that is required to keep a people tranquil and content. It is attention to their wants and their just rights alone that will make the miners content.
The protests against the injustice of their treatment began in Buninyong in August 1851 and as the search for gold spread across Victoria so also did the protests and the calls to the government to listen and to remedy the situation.
The Ballaarat Reform League was the final movement seeking to broker a peaceful deal. Its calls to the government were ignored. The brief battle at the Eureka stockade which followed was an unnecessary battle for which the government stood condemned. The peaceful goals of the Ballaarat Reform League were achieved but at the terrible cost of many lives.
Purchased with the assistance of many donors, 1996.
Reproduced with permission of The Art Gallery of Ballarat