Serving the Southern Cross explores the role of servicemen and women in defending Australia’s democracy. It was developed as a guide for students participating in an on-site tour at M.A.D.E but can be used in classrooms as well.

The resource is divided into several sections, each with its own topic focus and extended research task. The resource supports areas of Level 9 & 10 of the Australian Curriculum for History.

Serving the Southern Cross

Australia has a proud history of standing up for its democratic rights and freedoms. Since early colonial times, including at the Eureka Stockade, citizens of this country have fought to secure representation within the parliament, equal opportunity, freedom of speech, access to justice and the right to a fair trial for all.

Democracy provides Australians with privileges that many of us take for granted. However, at certain times when those privileges have been threatened, citizens have given their lives to ensure that these rights and freedoms continue for future generations.

Exploring a rich collection of stories and historical records, M.A.D.E’s Serving the Southern Cross tour seeks to commemorate the actions of Australia’s servicemen and women in their dedication to uphold democratic values on behalf of the country.

In this online exhibition, we hope you discover some of the challenges and motivations that have inspired people to give their time, energy, or their lives in defence of the Australian way of life. We encourage you to consider what democracy means to you, how far you would go to preserve it, and under what circumstances you might dedicate yourself to its defence.

Democracy and Defence

The term ‘Democracy’ comes from the ancient Greek words meaning ‘citizen’ and ‘rule’. In a democracy, people are given balanced representation and the right to vote. Decisions are made in favour of the majority and government powers are limited by the Constitution.

But, a democracy is more than just the rules and procedures that determine how a government should function. A true democracy possesses values that are sacred to the traditions of its society and involves standards for the treatment of its people.

In Australia, there are many daily examples of people working to maintain core democratic values. Individuals argue for the rights of themselves or others in court; table bills in parliament; protest in the street; conduct campaigns; and participate in continual newspaper, TV, radio and internet debates, which assess the country’s rights and wrongs.

For some, the way they choose to preserve our nation’s democractic freedoms is to join or support the Australian Defence Force.

Student task:
Many consider that the U.S. led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan was necessary in bringing democracy to those countries, which had suffered under oppressive regimes. Others suggest that democracy has been unfairly imposed on Iraq and Afghanistan. What do you think?

Fighting for Democracy

Not unlike the emerging democracies of today, Australia’s pathway to its current freedoms involved some violence.

In 1854, when Victoria’s goldfields population tried to change an oppressive colonial system that was unfair on its people, a physical conflict occurred at the Eureka Stockade. It became one of the country’s only examples of armed civil unrest and periods governed by martial law.

The population who fought at Eureka organised themselves by weapon type into divisions of men, they appointed captains, built fortifications and commenced military-style drills. Some suggest that they were an early type of Australian army fighting against their oppressors.

Whether that is the case or not, it is interesting to consider the circumstances under which a group will decide that direct violence is the last remaining option.

It is just as important to consider the role of the British Redcoat Soldiers as well. An organised military force, they were given the task of restoring law and order at Eureka. Their deployment was seen as a method of securing future civic peace, much like the deployments of many Allied troops are seen today.

Student Task:
The Democracy Index measures the condition of democracy around the world. It reports that many countries operate under ‘flawed democracies’. Look into some of the current news stories about the Ukraine, South Sudan or Singapore and give your thoughts on why democracy is sometimes hard to achieve.


According to the well-known saying, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. At Eureka, and in all other armed conflicts that have involved Australian forces, there has always been attempts to resolve conflicts peacefully through discussion, debate, petition and amendment to laws, prior to there being any active assault.

In military service today, a lot of the work of Australia’s defence forces involves communication and working alongside oppressed populations, as much as it does demonstrations of firepower. The pen also represents the many diplomatic efforts, political negotiations and signing of treaties that happen during times of war.

A significant written document that helps to preserve the peaceful nature of Australia’s democracy is the ‘Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia’. It determines that only our elected federal government has the right to deploy the nation’s forces and prevents any of Australia’s individual states from raising armies.

Student Task:
Currently, the Australian Federal Government does not require parliamentary approval to deploy troops. Whichever political party is in power at the time can make the decision without consulting the other representatives. Find out why some people would like to see this changed and offer your own opinions in the debate.

Mein Kampf

‘Mein Kampf’ (My Struggle), is the political manifesto written by Adolf Hitler, which was considered the bible of National Socialism (Nazism) during Germany’s Third Reich.

The book outlines what was described as ‘the sacred mission of the German people’ in order to raise them to a dominant position in the world. It includes extreme views on the treatment of Jewish people and maintaining the purity of the German race.

The ideas expressed in this text could not be further from the democratic standards celebrated by the Australian people, and the nation rallied together for the war effort, both on the frontline and at home, to ensure that these ideals were preserved in Australia and the countries of our allies overseas.

As well as fiercely promoting their own doctrine, the Nazis attempted to eliminate all free thought among the population. They held book burning rallies and celebrated the destruction of many forms of literature. Their absolute censorship constrasted sharply with the freedom of expression encouraged by democratic countries.

Student Task:
In the 1930’s, book burning was a strong, physical example of censorship. While not exactly the same, the case of Wikileaks has highlighted certain access to information issues present today. Investigate the case, then write your own views on what should and should not be made available to the public.

The Diary of Anne Frank

One of the most well-known symbols of the Holocaust, ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ is a collection of writings by 13 year old Anne Frank, who was in hiding with her family in an annexe in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in WW2.

The diary chronicles Anne’s experiences throughout the war and brings to life the struggle of the Jewish people and her family’s constant fear of being discovered. The final entry is written three days before the family are captured by German police and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp.

The only surviving member of the Frank family was Anne’s father, Otto, who published her diary in 1952.

Since then, the work has become a powerful reflection on the dangers of discrimination and intolerance, instead encouraging readers to consider the value of equal rights, freedom and democracy.

In one entry, Anne writes, “It is difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart” – July 15, 1944.

Student Task:
‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ is particularly poignant as it chronicles the Holocaust experiences of a child. In a democracy, we say that everybody has a voice and equal rights, yet children are given special conditions and restrictions. Examine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and comment on whether you think the different articles are achieved for all children.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations (UN) is an international organisation that was established in 1945 in direct response to the atrocities of the Second World War. It aims to promote global cooperation in order to prevent another such conflict.

Democracy is seen as one of the central principles of the UN, who work to ensure people’s fundamental rights and freedoms are respectfully upheld. In accordance with this, in 1948, the UN published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights document, which outlines the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.

Australia was a founding member of the UN and since 1947, has provided more than 65,000 personnel to implement a range of peace and security operations, including participation on current projects in the Middle East.

Student Task:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists 30 articles ‘…as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations…’ Review the articles and find one that relates to a current news story. Comment on whether or not military intervention might be required to secure human rights for the people involved.

Defending Against Fascism

Fascism is a radical political ideology that removes multi-party systems in favour of a single, central authority. It was dominant in countries like Germany, Italy and Japan during the early 20th century and can be described as a system that rejects rights and freedoms for individuals.

Fascist countries are typically militant. They promote extreme nationalism, and use closed-border protectionism to isolate their economies. During WW2, this became a threat to democracy, as fascist countries attempted to spread their political system throughout the world.

After Germany invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939, Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies made the following announcement:

“Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that, in consequence of the persistence of Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement.”

Many Australians rallied for the war effort. The image above shows an Australian soldier meeting an American paratrooper on the battlefields of New Guinea, which was an Australian territory at the time. The fighting that took place there was an effort to liberate the area from Japanese occupation.

Student Task:
Close-border protectionism was used in Fascist countries to isolate their economies and to restrict foreign trade. Investigate the ‘free trade’ models favoured by most democratic countries and comment on whether or not it assists in the acheivement of democratic ideals.

We Shall Fight on the Beaches

This speech was given in 1940 by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as a report to the members of parliament. It was made after Allied troops had been forced to withdraw from France under the rapid advance of German forces.

In the full speech, Churchill encourages the nation to maintain their campaign against the ‘odious apparatus of Nazi rule,’ despite the recent defeat. He appeals to the people of Britain to fight wherever necessary and to ‘never surrender’, no matter how hard the situation.

Churchill also rallied overseas nations to use their ‘power and might’ to carry on the struggle against the Germans, should Britain be unsuccessful.

Australia’s response to the speech was one of strong support, with the following words sent by Prime Minister Menzies to Britain:

“Every Australian has watched with pride the great feat of arms at Dunkirk…This is an hour of danger for all of us who love freedom and believe the well-being of the individual is the chief purpose of the government…Our people are stirred…All that we have we pledge to victory.”

The speech was not broadcast or recorded at the time, however Churchill was encouraged to do so in 1949, for future generations to hear. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, for his contribution to the written and spoken word.

Student Task:
In times of war, meaningful and historically significant speeches are delivered. At the same time, inflammatory and propaganda filled conversation appears. Examine some of the famous wartime speeches and decide whether they are positive and patriotic or negatively persuasive.

Rising Sun Badge

The Rising Sun Badge was first worn in 1899 by Australian soldiers serving in South Africa as part of the 2nd Boer War.

Sharing a similar history with Australia, South Africa was also colonised by foreign powers. It too experienced sudden foreign immigration due to the discovery of gold and then underwent a period of political unrest as the British part of the population attempted to secure full voting rights.

When negotiations to establish rights for the British within the republic failed, fighting broke out and Australian troops, alongside Canadian allies, united in South Africa in support of the British.

Since then, the Rising Sun Badge has become an integral part of the digger tradition and is readily identified with the spirit of the ANZAC’s. It can be seen as a symbol of a soldier’s allegiance to Australia and their courage and determination to serve their country in pursuit of freedom and democracy.

The Rising Sun Badge was designed by Major General Sir Edward Hutton, the first commander of the Australian Army, and is based on a ‘trophy-of-arms’. It is made up of alternating cut-and-thrust swords and triangular Martini-Henry bayonets around an imperial crown.

Student Task:
The Boer War was one of the many examples of Australian forces fighting overseas. Investigate the different places around the world where Australian troops have been deployed and decide whether or not you think it is important for our army to be involved, in order to protect Australia.


There were only 60 years between the battle at the Eureka Stockade and the beginning of WW1, so it was not uncommon for families at the time to have a connection to both.

For example, Peter Lalor, the famed leader of the armed miners at Eureka, had a grandson, Joseph, who was killed fighting with the 12th Battalion AIF at Gallipoli. Years later, Joseph’s son, also named Peter, lost his life while on an Allied campaign to enter Italy during WW2.

Australia’s gold rush pioneers and wartime servicemen share the nickname ‘digger’.

While the digging of mines and the digging of trenches have obvious similarities, it is more so the set of traits and characteristics displayed by the two groups, which have remained to form part of Australia’s national identity.

Diggers are known for enduring tough conditions. They share daily toils, hardships and rewards, and believed in freedom and loyalty.

They are distinguished from their British counterparts by their uniquely egalitarian approach to command structures, while their commitment to their ‘mates’ is a lasting attribute, with the word even included in the ‘Contract with Australia’ that modern-day soldiers make upon joining the army today.

Student Task:
Many Australians can identify the several generations of their families that have completed active military service. Explore the profiles of a number of servicemen and women from now and in the past and decide whether or not family tradition seems to play a role in their decision to serve.


While Australia’s involvement in global conflicts has helped to establish aspects of our national identity and forge a strong awareness of our democratic principles, it has also left behind a stark reminder of the human cost of war.

While honouring the enduring legacy of the ANZAC’s and remembering the sacrifice shown by those who have served to defend our country, it cannot be forgotten that war also takes lives, destroys physical and mental health, divides nations and tears apart families and communities.

Statistics like these show the consequences that war has had on Australia and helps to demonstrate the importance of maintaining peace and democratic ideals throughout the world in the hope that future conflicts can be prevented. It is also a strong reminder of the gratitude we should have for those who have sacrificed their lives in defence of Australia.

Student Task:
The financial cost of sending troops overseas is also something governments must consider when they are involved in international conflicts. Investigate how much Australia has spent on its military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 and assess whether you think the expense is reasonable, based on the reported benefits.

Vietnam War

It is one of the principles of democracy that everyday citizens have the right to peaceful assembly. During the Vietnam War, this right was employed to great effect to send a strong message to the Australian parliament about the issues of defence and conscription.

Traditionally, the government had only been able to conscript men for defence on home soil, however, the introduction of new powers in 1964 enabled them to send conscripted soldiers overseas as well.

Australians protested against these changes in mass public opposition. Many believed that forcing people to go to war was an intolerable violation of democratic rights, especially since many of the conscripted men were not even old enough to vote at the time. This was further aggravated by the fact that many people believed Australia simply should not have been involved in the war in the first place.

This example of the 1960’s anti-war protests demonstrates that there is a role for all citizens of Australia in matters of defence and ensuring that democracy remains intact.

Student Task:
Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War was roundly criticised, yet it is still an example of citizens serving their country for a democratic cause. Investigate the treatment of Vietnam’s returned servicemen and women, compared to their WW1 and WW2 counterparts. Explain what you believe should be provided to veterans and their families.

Nuclear Disarmament

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WW2 and the continuing nuclear crisis that occurred throughout the Cold War sparked a number of protests throughout the world about the nature of weaponry used for defence.

For Australia, the debate centred on weapons testing, uranium mining and the use of nuclear power within the country.

At the time, large-scale anti-nuclear protests were common, particularly by groups such as the Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP) and the People for Nuclear Disarmament (PND), who worked to preserve the health of the Australian people and the country’s natural resources.

A replica Eureka Flag was carried at some of the largest and most influential anti-Vietnam marches of the 1960s and 1970s and anti-nuclear marches of the 1980s. When interviewed, the owner of the flag stated, “Most Australians know what the Eureka Flag stands for. That it was the flag of people who were fighting for justice.”

This statement, and the use of the symbol at these protests, shows the potency that the Southern Cross has for Australian democratic rights and freedoms, and provides a glimpse into the many ways that people serve our country to ensure the integrity of our democratic principles.

Protest badges were also used to raise awareness for the cause and to encourage people to join the fight against nuclear armament. Jo Vallentine, the owner of this collection, exercised her democratic rights as an anti-nuclear activist and leader of both the NDP and the Australian Greens Party in Western Australia.

Student Task:
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki exposed the brutal effects of nuclear weaponry. Investigate the outcome of the event and provide your thoughts about which factors prevent total world nuclear disarmament, despite the many years of protest.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was established in 1949 as an intergovernmental alliance that aims to safeguard the freedom and security of its member states through political and military means. NATO promotes the adoption of democratic values by encouraging consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.

Australia is not a member of NATO, but has worked closely with the organisation on a number of projects including the NATO-led mission to stabilise Afghanistan.

This conflict saw more than 1100 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed to the troubled country to provide assistance, conflict management and mentoring.

Student Task:
Although the aims of NATO are to secure peace, their methods involve armed military campaigns. Compare what NATO says about themselves with some of the criticisms levelled against them, before deciding for yourself whether or not they act for the global good.


During wartime, sewing becomes a vital part of the defence effort. Whether it be for the creation of items such as camouflage nets, socks, vests, mittens, and singlets for soldiers fighting overseas or the determined stitching to produce patriotic symbols such as regimental colours and flags, sewing is a way for people to show their support and patriotism.

Women, in particular, contributed hundreds of thousands of items during WW1 and WW2. In Ballarat alone, 30,062 socks and 24,467 shirts were stitched for Australian servicemen in 1917.

Reports also exist of convalescing soldiers in hospitals overseas being encouraged to take up embroidery as part of their rehabilitation.

Student Task:
Gender roles have changed significantly since the end of WW2. In January 2013, the Australian Federal Government made it possible for women to apply for direct combat roles. Research the decision and give your ideas about whether you think it is a woman’s democratic right to be involved in direct combat or whether there are reasons women shouldn’t appear on the frontline.

Flag of the Southern Cross

Throughout history, flags have played a key role in military operations. They are used on battlefields to identify forces, provide signalling, divide large armies into military formations, claim territory, or to declare victory when captured as trophies.

The Flag of the Southern Cross was flown for the first time at Bakery Hill in Ballarat in 1854. At that moment it was used as central emblem for a type of people’s army who knelt down before it to proclaim an oath: We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties.

While there have been many other examples around the world where people have fought for freedom, this flag and the battle at the Eureka Stockade are particularly significant for Australians because the colonial population were making a strong declaration about what they wanted for this country.

The Southern Cross symbol that appears on the flag references the specific geographic location of being in Australia, reminding the oppressed miners of the navigational pattern of stars they had followed to sail to this country, where they had dreamed of finding freedom and opportunity.

Democracy promised to provide them with this freedom and opportunity and, although the pathway towards this new political system involved the civil conflict at Eureka, we are able to celebrate that ever since then Australia has enjoyed lasting peace.

Student Task:
Flags have often appeared as symbols of great patriotism during war. Investigate the way different countries use flags in association with their armies. Decide whether or not you think the Australian Flag holds meaning for its people today.

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E) would like to thank the Victorian Veterans Council and the Department of Premier and Cabinet for their generous support in the creation of this resource.

M.A.D.E would also like to acknowledge the ongoing assistance provided by the Department of Education and Training and the City of Ballarat, which allows for the continued release of new cultural materials.

We extend our gratitude to the Gold Museum at Sovereign Hill and to the staff at the Australiana Research Room in the Ballarat Library for allowing us to access to their collections.

(C) M.A.D.E 2015

Images supplied by:

The State Library of Victoria (
The State Library of New South Wales (
Shutterstock (
The United Nations (
Federation University (
The Library of Congress (
The Australian War Memorial (
The University of Melbourne Archives (
The University of Birmingham (
Anne Frank House (
Parliament of Australia (