Eureka! A Story of the Goldfields by Mark Wilson explores life for prospectors on the goldfields in Ballarat in the early 1850s. In this book, Molly and her father emigrate from London to work on the bustling gold fields. Upon their arrival they quickly befriend a teenage boy, Chen. Chen left his family in China and made the long voyage to Australia hoping to earn money so that he could eventually bring his family to Australia. Molly and her Papa are quickly introduced to the harsh reality of life on the goldfields when they are abruptly woken on their first morning there by a policeman on a horse demanding to see a gold licence. This was not yet organised, so Papa had no choice but to immediately spend most of their savings on this expensive licence.
Panning for gold involves certain tools and knowledge which Chen possesses and kindly shares with Molly and Papa to help them find gold. Chen also generously shares his food supplies with them, making life a little easier and less hostile. There are many burdens and injustices in this environment. The gold licenses are very costly; the policemen are heavy handed and show no mercy to those who cannot afford one, no matter what their reasons or circumstances. Bullying as well as racism is prevalent and Chen as well as other Chinese miners are subject to this.
The miners join forces and decide to take a stand to defend their rights and build a stockade. They also agree to refuse to pay the licence fee. They swear an oath to stand in solidarity with the Southern Cross flag as their backdrop. Upon receiving word that the soldiers were set to attack the stockade, Molly’s Papa and Chen join forces with the other miners. In the early hours of the morning, the government troops and Police attack the Eureka stockade in Ballarat. The Eureka rebellion inextricably changed their lives in ways they could never imagine.
This book is based on the true story of Catherine Martin, a daughter of an English immigrant and Pan Ah Shin, a teenage boy who emigrated from China in 1851. The striking illustrations provide a masterful portrayal of the Eureka rebellion and are brimming with details from the time as well as emotion that illuminate the text. The illustrations, together with the narrative, give the reader a great insight into this period of Australian history and sheds light on different perspectives – that of Chinese prospectors as well as life on the goldfields through Molly and Papa’s eyes.