In February 1855, the Supreme Court of Victoria is the scene of the historic trial of 13 Eureka rebels. These 'diggers', representing an array of nationalities and races, had come to seek their fortunes on the goldfields of Victoria - now they find themselves charged with 'making a war against her Gracious Majesty, the Queen of England'. It's an antiquated, arcane charge - treason - that will puzzle jurors and galvanise the colony. If the 'diggers' are found guilty, they'll be executed - and they're being prosecuted by one of the most powerful men in the colony of Victoria, Attorney General William Stawell, the author of the new Victorian constitution. When the trial begins, Stawell thinks he's suppressing an illegal uprising and foreign agitators, but to his shock, the agitation becomes domestic. Stawell is determined to hang these men as an example and cement his newly written constitution. But he hasn't bargained on the emergence of 'radical Melbourne'. Whipped into a frenzy by the press, the mood of the people turns to support the rebels in the dock; and the jury of popular opinion is repelled by the antiquated notion of treason. As the trials of the 13 men unfold, people begin to understand there was no Eureka uprising - just the appearance of a revolt engineered by the authorities in the colony of Victoria. And as blame for the uprising turns on the government - with accusations of its heavy-handedness in managing the goldfields situation - the case against the 'diggers' falls apart most spectacularly. By the time all 13 are acquitted, Stawell's new Victorian constitution has been changed and the people have demanded popular democracy. The events that unfolded during the Eureka trials changed our notions about democracy, our status as a nation and the very notion of justice in Australia.
About Australia on Trial series:
Presented by historian Michael Cathcart, “Australia On Trial” is a thought-provoking three-part series, recreating three historic trial...Show more >