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Ballarat captures the essence of Aussie

November 14, 2005

By Garth Morrison, Editor

The miners who rebelled at Eureka in 1854 captured the essence of the Australia spirit. Young, passionate and often well educated, they stood together in 'mateship' in defence of the right to a 'fair go'.

Typical of the Eureka rebels was Morgan Lee, who left a starving Ireland to seek a better life and found a place inside the rough and ready ramparts of the Eureka Stockade. His great great grandson, Director of the Eureka Centre, Ron Egeberg, wishes he could speak to Morgan, for this was an interesting man who grew to be a respected member of the Ballarat community. 'It is a celebration of the Australian spirit,' Ron says and that is, he says, the magic of Ballarat.

Eureka Stockade can be dismissed as an unlawful skirmish, but December 3, 1854, can also be seen as a defining event, in the broad context of social change linked to the birth of democracy for Australians. Ballarat celebrated Eureka Week from November 25 to December 5 this year.

Eureka Dec 3 1854 by George Browning Courtesy Jan Gude and the Eureka CentreBe part of Eureka

Visitors can experience the dramatic story of the 1854 Eureka Rebellion at the Eureka Centre. And it is captured in a sound and light spectacular Blood on the Southern Cross at Sovereign Hill. The Eureka Flag, once hidden in a cupboard at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, is now proudly displayed as the areas most recognised symbol.

The flag flew first at Bakery Hill on November 29, 1854 when thousands of miners met and swore to stand by their mates to defend their rights and liberties.

Red Coats open fire courtesy Sovereign HillStand by the flag

It is the rallying point that early in the morning of December 3, 1854, rebel leader Peter Lalor and 150 miners defended to the death against a surprise attack by about 280 troopers and police.

In blood, pain and death they lost a battle, but won a principle, the right for all to a 'fair go'.

Its a grand city

Gold brought great wealth and Goldfields centres are notable for grand architecture, broad streetscapes, lush gardens and art galleries.

Grand hotels and public buildings grace the main streets of Ballarat along with historic gardens.

Quaint shopfronts and miners cottages add their character to nearby townships like Maldon, Castlemaine and Maryborough.

On the Mine Train courtesy Sovereign HillMine history

Gold rush history can be 'mined' at of the regions historic attractions. Ballarats Sovereign Hill and The Eureka Centre offers a fascinating insight into life above and below the ground during the 1850s and 1860s.

The Eureka Centre describes the 1854 Eureka Rebellion.

Ballarats Sovereign Hill is a fully accredited museum and a leading Australian Outdoor Living Museum. It has won both State and National Tourism Awards and Museum Awards.

On a site which is historically linked with the richest alluvial gold rush in the world, it tells the story of Ballarats first 10 years following the discovery of gold in August 1851.

Gold Pour courtesy Sovereign HillBe a miner

Sovereign Hill houses a mining complex including original underground workings and the modern Gold Museum, which displays a substantial collection of gold and gold artefacts.

The site comprises the Red Hill Gully Diggings, the Township, the Mine and the Gold Museum while the diggings themselves present a picture of the earliest days following the discovery of gold. The emphasis is on visitor participation and in a variety of tents or huts on Main St, visitors meet costumed interpreters.

Mark of mateship

Ballarats latest memorial to mateship lists the names of 35,000 Australians service men and women ex-prisoners of war.

Girls enjoy the Gold Museum Their names are engraved on a 130m long, polished wall of black granite in a dramatic tribute by sculptor Peter Blizzard.

In the Ballarat Botanical Gardens on the shores of Lake Wendouree the memorial lists names in historical order, from the Boer War in 1899, to the Korean conflict in 1953.

Enjoy great food and wine

Famous for its traditional pies, the region is home to renowned bakeries and pie shops. Local restaurants make the most of the local wines, olives, fruit and vegetables.

The Goldfields covers four wine regions, all produce quality wines.

The Ballarat region is celebrated for its chardonnay, pinot noir and, methode Champenoise. There are several wineries within 20km of Ballarat.

Kate and Sarina Gold Panning  courtesy Sovereign HillThe wine-producing region includes Avoca, the Pyrenees, Ararat, Moonambel and Redbank. There are 10 vineyards in the Ballarat area.

The red soils and warmer temperatures of Bendigo produce award-winning Shiraz and cabernet all deep red, with a distinct minty edge to the berry fruit.

Find fine art

The Ballarat Fine Art Gallery is the proud owner of the areas most recognised symbol, the Eureka Flag, and houses the oldest and largest public art collection in regional Australia.

The Goldfields region is home to a strong arts community visit the many private galleries to see works by local artists working in all media.

Book for the theatre

A stroll around the central historic area of Ballarat reveals the classic architecture of Lydiard and Sturt St shaped by the wealth of the goldfields. In Lydiard St. the 120-year-old Her Majestys Theatre has been the home of the performing arts since 1875. It was restored to its gracious glory in 1990. Guide tours are available. Bookings are essential.

Stroll through Botanic beauty

From the main thoroughfare of Sturt St, follow the signs to Lake Wendouree and the beautiful Botanic Gardens.

Places like Ballarat Birdworld, Ballarat Wildlife Park and nearby Mt Buninyong have an abundance of native flora and fauna, including wallabies and koalas and a wealth of birdlife.

The township of Buninyong itself is full of the sort of history and charm you would expect from Victorias first inland town.

Coach outside US Hotel courtesy Sovereign HillTake a rest

The name Ballarat is derived from two aboriginal words Balla, meaning elbow: and Arat, a place. It therefore means, A Resting Place or resting on ones elbow.

Aborigines long before European settlement used the site on the shore of Lake Wendouree as a camp.

Before the discovery of gold, shepherds and pastoralists and wandering Aboriginal tribes, most notably the Borneghurk and Wathaurang tribes occupied the land

Gold changed that, and as the gold fever hit, hundreds of people lived and worked within metres of each other.

United Nations

They came from every corner of the world. They included people from the British Isles and Europe hoping to improve the quality of their lives.

There were the Forty-niners fresh from the Californian gold strike of 1849 and the Chinese men who left their families behind in the hope of returning to China with great wealth.

Gold ebbs and flows

The Gold Rush actually consisted of a number of separate rushes. Alluvial gold was literally picked off the ground when white settlers first discovered it in 1851.

Main St - Vic Hotel courtesy Sovereign  HillAs they had no experience or knowledge of the nature of gold formation, settlers moved when it ran out.

By early 1852, the area was almost deserted. But word of their finds reached other countries a few months later and encouraged experienced prospectors to Ballarat from around the world.

They reached Ballarat by the end of 1852 and so another Rush began. At this time, gold was still found near the surface and separated quite easily from loose sand, gravel and clay by panning and washing.

Successive waves of miners went deeper and deeper, discovering deep leads (or buried rivers) that contained loose gold at ever increasing depths.

See gold poured

Sovereign Hill encapsulates the first 10 years of the Ballarat Goldfields experience.

The Sovereign Quartz Mine Gold Smelting Works is a rare opportunity to see some $50,000 worth of pure gold melted and poured into a gold ingot.

Go underground

The guided underground Quartz Mine Tour traces the development of gold mining techniques from the 1860s to 1918, when the last mine in Ballarat closed.

Veins of gold glitter in the quartz rock of the tunnels. The underground displays show the development of mining technology from the mid-19th century to 1918.

The tour concludes with a train ride through early exploration areas accompanied by the sounds of a working mine. Including blasting.

Quartz mining brought a stable social structure to the goldfields.

It was a long-term commitment, with regular wages, hard rock mining techniques and specialised machinery.

Visit golden treasure

The Gold Museum houses a rich collection of gold in alluvial nuggets and coins, as well as displays on Ballarats social history. It is opposite Sovereign Hill and admission is included in the general admission ticket to Sovereign Hill.

Ballarat: Inspired by Gold is an excellent exhibition, which tells the story of gold in Ballarat, from the discovery of gold to the gold rush era and the subsequent emergence of the grand city of Ballarat.

The museum links in closely with Sovereign Hills programs and activities. The Gold Museum serves a dual role: it widens and enhances the visitors experience of Sovereign Hill and it is the regional museum for the Central Highlands area.

The Gold Museum is based around the unique collection of gold nuggets, samples and coins collected by Paul and Jessica Simon.

The gold is displayed in several main sections:

  • The importance of gold in history;
  • The history of gold discovery around Ballarat;
  • The many uses of gold;
  • The superb coin collection is displayed against a backdrop of world history;

showing the fascinating thread which gold has woven through time.

Eureka Centre Ballarat

Must see and do

  • Experience the drama of Australias only rebellion at the Eureka Centre, corner of Eureka and Rodier Streets.
  • Be part of the Days of Gold at Sovereign Hill Outdoor Living Museum, corner of Main Rd and Bradshaw St.
  • Absorb history through the Blood on the Southern Cross Sound and light show at Sovereign Hill. Bookings are essential.
  • Be introduced to Ballarats mining and social history at the Gold Museum opposite Sovereign Hill.
  • Enjoy the flowerbeds, statue collections, walks and conservatory, at Ballarat Botanical gardens, Wendouree Pde, adjacent to the lake.
  • See one of the nations most outstanding collections of Australian art, 40 Lydiard St.
  • Take a wildlife tour with the staff at Ballarat Wildlife Park, Corner of Fussell and York Streets.
  • Call at the James Egan gallery at 7 Lester Rd, Bungaree 10km east of Ballarat and meet a true Australian 'character' artist.

Main Festival events

  • Royal South Street Eisteddfod Sept/Oct.
  • Springfest- Nov.
  • Eureka Week Celebrations (Nov 25 to Dec 5).
  • Ballarat Begonia Festival March.

Check the Ballarat City Councils Events Calendar at -
and <a href="/articlepics/eureka2005program.pdf" target="newer">Eureka 2005 Program