Social Justice Poetry

The Eureka Stockade | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

The Eureka Flag
(An Australian Dream)

In a wooden stockade the flag they raised —
the southern sky with a cross of silver stars —
declared an egalitarian dream, a new land
where inheritance would never decree
the measure of any individual’s worth
and that any child’s opportunity
should never be limited by wealth or birth.
It was never much more than a dream,
— for sadly there are always the dispossessed
and, for those men, the indigenous and women
were not amongst the reasons for their unrest —
but dreams are much more than mere seeming.
They set a standard for what we think best.
From the blood spilled for this dreaming
into the national consciousness came the idea
that this land would not be based on class
and under the cross of stars and southern sun
a new world of equality of opportunity
could be freely available for everyone.

That flag remains, its vibrance faded,
its corners ragged, torn and worn by time.
It is still the silver stars on deepest blue
but the dream for which it flew
is shredded beyond tatters.
Base and cunning men in their lust for power
have laid siege to the stockade,
with low guile infiltrated the ideals,
besmirched the fragment of justice and fairness
with crass and loathsome things of their invention.
Is “aspirational” now our highest aim?
Is our best a narrow, shallow commercialism,
a smug, mean-spirited complacency,
a relentless seeking for personal advantage,
a competitive pursuit of possessions,
the tiny idea of “relaxed and comfortable”
in a new, divided and insular hierarchy where
worth and opportunity is unequally proportioned
and power and privilege is the real mantra
behind a sad, diminished and empty “monetocracy”?

But Listen! Listen to this land! It speaks!
Its eucalyptus scent, colour, heat haze,
its great brilliant blue beauty of sky,
its stars’ glorious evening blaze,
its distant blue of low mountains,
its tangle and twist of scrub and tree,
its rollers crashing upon the coast,
are crying out for more than mediocrity.
O my country, Wake! Throw off these shackles!
Rebuild your stockade! Dream of great things!
Raise your flag! Let equality of opportunity
again soar high on justice’s wings!
Reclaim the dream! You have the power,
the vote for which the Eureka Flag flew.
It was institutionalised privilege
against which they fought and railed.
Demand equality of opportunity
for all children of this great south land.
Raise again their dream and their flag.
Let children grow together under this southern sun,
this evening blue crossed with silver stars.
Let equality of opportunity be for everyone.

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