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southern cross

On November 29, it will be the 159th anniversary of the first flying of the Eureka Flag at Bakery Hill, in the goldfields town of Ballarat in Victoria. This flag was that of the Ballarat Reform League, formed to protest the regulation of the gold diggings, with the goal of having miner’s licenses abolished. It was necessary to pay 8 pounds a year to dig for gold, and the license had to be paid whether the miners found any gold or not.

The Reform League tried to negotiate with the authorities, but they were treated as a rabble, and police reinforcements were brought in to quell them. On November 29 1854, a meeting was called, and the Reform League announced their peaceful tactics had not worked. The miners decided on open resistance, and burned their mining licenses in protest. The next day, they constructed a stockade, a makeshift wooden barricade, and prepared to defend it.

On December 1, the Eureka Flag was consecrated, and the miners swore a solemn oath upon it to stand by each other and defend their rights. Two days later came the Eureka Stockade, Australia’s first, and only, violent act of civil disobedience. A hopelessly one-sided battle, the rebels were swiftly and brutally overcome by the military, with more than twenty of the diggers killed. However, there was such public support for the captured rebels in Melbourne that the hated mining licenses were abolished, and there was a complete overhaul of the goldfields administration.

The Eureka Flag is thought to have been designed by a Canadian miner called Henry Ross, showing five eight-pointed stars of the Southern Cross on a dark blue background, joined together with a cross representing unity. The background was probably inspired by the blue work shirts worn by the miners. According to local legend, the flag was handstitched by three women of the Ballarat goldfields – Anastasia Withers, Anne Duke, and Anastasia “Annie” Hayes.

Anastasia Hayes was a fiery-tempered redhead who had survived the potato famine in Ireland, and was tough enough to cope with life on the goldfields. Her husband was one of the leaders of the Eureka Rebellion, and Anastasia had attended the political meetings with him. Still breast-feeding her last baby at the time, she gave medical aid to miners injured during the rebellion, including assisting with surgery. Later deserted by her husband, Anastasia brought up their six children alone, supporting herself as a teacher.

Anastasia Withers is said to have sacrificed her white lawn petticoat to make the stars for the Eureka Flag. Anne Duke is believed to have been one of the women who sewed the stars for the flag, and was inside the Eureka Stockade during the battle, hiding while she listened to bullets hit the cooking utensils in her tent. Heavily pregnant at the time, she gave birth just a few days later under a cart on the road to Bendigo. Henry Ross was killed during the Eureka Stockade, but the flag he designed has gone on to become a potent symbol of rebellion against oppressive authority.

Anastasia is the feminine form of Anastasios, meaning “resurrection” in Greek; the name was chosen by early Christians in honour of the resurrection of Christ. Saint Anastasia of Sirmium was a 4th century martyr, and the only saint who has their feast on Christmas Day. Because of the meaning, the name Anastasia is sometimes chosen for baby girls born during the Easter season.

Anastasia has been used in England since the Middle Ages, but was more common in Eastern Europe, where it has been used amongst royalty and nobility. The most famous of these is the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, youngest daughter of Nicholas II, the last emperor of Imperial Russia. Reportedly a lively and even mischievous teenager, she was executed by the Bolshevik secret police with the rest of her family in 1917.

However, there were persistent rumours she had managed to escape and gone into exile, and several women claimed to be Anastasia. It became one of the great urban legends of the twentieth century, the subject of many books and several films. Recent DNA testing has conclusively proven these rumours false, and the supposed Anastasias either imposters, or suffering from delusion. Anastasia, and all her family, have been canonised as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Anastasia was #226 in the 1900s, but left the charts the following decade – perhaps the death of the Grand Duchess in 1917 made the name seem an unfortunate choice. Anastasia began ranking again in the 1950s at #484 – my guess is because of the 1956 film Anastasia, starring Ingrid Bergman, which hinted that Anastasia could still be alive. That slender hope was enough to resurrect the name Anastasia in the Australian charts.

The name Anastasia peaked in the early 2000s at #140, not long after the release of an animated movie called Anastasia in the late 1990s, loosely based on the 1956 film. It suffered a sharp drop in popularity in 2010, the year after it was confirmed that Anastasia had been killed during the Russian Revolution. Since then it has recovered somewhat, and is now #176 in New South Wales and #150 in Victoria.

Anastasia is a retro name, but doesn’t sound old-fashioned in the least, and has remained in constant use since the 1950s without ever becoming popular. For many years its fortunes have been tied to a mysterious member of the Russian Imperial family, but with her sad riddle finally solved, it can hopefully move on and be judged on its own merits.

Anastasia is a vital part of Australian history, and a very patriotic name. It is beautiful and elaborate, although too strong and meaningful to be “frilly”. But don’t let anyone tell you it’s a princessy name, or suggest that an Anastasia sounds fragile and dainty. Anastasia is a rebellious heroine; a woman tough enough to survive a battle, but still have the heart to care for the wounded. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, or too prissy to tear up her own petticoat for the cause.

If you have a little Anastasia, she is part of a proud tradition, and you will be reminded of her name every time you see the shining stars of the Southern Cross.

Name Combinations for Anastasia

Anastasia Chloe, Anastasia Juliet, Anastasia Lucy, Anastasia Mathilde, Anastasia Paige, Anastasia Sophie

Sisters for Anastasia

Genevieve, Hermione, Isabelle, Madeleine, Seraphina, Temperance

Brothers for Anastasia

Calvin, Joseph, Kai, Lucas, Sebastian, Xander

POLL RESULT: Anastasia received an approval rating of 85%. 41% of people thought it was a good name, while 33% loved it.