A peaceful protest

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 31-Aug-2017


THE Red Ribbon Rebellion returned to Bendigo this week, to mark the anniversary of the original event in 1853.

The Bendigo Historical Society arranges the annual re-enactment annually to celebrate and remember what was a critical turning point in Bendigo’s gold rush history.

This peaceful protest was directed against the payment of what the diggers called a tax – a licence fee for the right to search for gold on Crown Land. 

The diggers had to pay the licence regardless of whether they found gold or not and were treated harshly by police who used the licences to intimidate the miners.

As a result, diggers took to wearing red ribbons as a symbol of their protest and many thousands of them signed a petition to Joseph La Trobe, the then Governor of Victoria, asking that the fee be reduced to 10 shillings a month.

The governor rejected the petition in early August, which led to thousands of diggers deciding to hold a peaceful protest on August 27. 

The crowd surrounded Camp Hill, and a delegation met with Commissioners Wright and Panton on Camp Hill (in Rosalind Park) to offer them 10 shillings for the September licence. 

The commissioners rejected the offer, but no licences were collected in September and this marked the end of the licence fee on the goldfields.

The Red Ribbon Rebellion is an example of how democracy can work effectively and result in the will of the majority being heard without the need for violence. 

“In a world where war and violence are so often considered the only way to settle our differences, it is essential that we remember those moments where peaceful negotiations have delivered the desired result,” Bendigo Historical Society president Jim Evans said.


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