BACKGROUND TO THE REDEVELOPMENT OF THE EUREKA CENTRE

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BACKGROUND TO THE REDEVELOPMENT OF THE EUREKA CENTRE

A paper by Ron Egeberg, buy information pills October 2013

SUMMARY

This paper seeks to provide a summary of the operation and development of the Eureka Centre during the period of governance by the City of Ballarat from 2002 to 2010.  It summarises a number of the key issues inherit in the planning, sildenafil establishment and operation of the original Centre and various strategies implemented in order to upgrade the exhibition, improve visitor numbers and to raise the profile and importance of Eureka both Nationally and Internationally.

I have also highlighted both the high and low points of this period and the initiatives introduced by management in order to address both in the short and long term some of the key organisational and operational challenges.

Although there is a tendency by some people to highlight the negative aspects of the Centre’s operation during this timeframe closer examination of the facts reveal many positive achievements in focusing on the issues, events and legacy of Eureka and its place in our nation’s early steps towards the establishment of our democratic freedoms.

The allocation of federal, state and local government funding for the redevelopment of the Eureka Centre was seen as a unique opportunity to provide a new facility that would provide a state of the art exhibition, upgraded resources and a consolidation of networks both locally, nationally and internationally suited to the needs of diverse groups of visitors, researchers and students in the twenty first century.

The lack of a sense of ownership by the Ballarat community is a key concern.  It seems that in adopting an emphasis on the historical development of democracy in an international context the essential elements and the relevance of Eureka have been largely neglected.

The decision by the consultants to diminish the involvement of the various reference groups and individuals with appropriate expertise during the initial planning stages has failed to capture the support needed to address many of the key elements required to ensure the success of the new facility.

It appears at this point in time that a great deal of careful planning and ongoing funding will be required to achieve many of the goals that formed the initial aspirations for the establishment and operation of M.A.D.E.

Redeveloping the Eureka Centre

Following extensive research, I created a blueprint in 2005 for what was needed to be achieved in the telling of the quintessential development of Australia’s democracy, the important role Eureka played in it and the legacy it left for the future governing of this nation. Importantly, the sense of place and pilgrimage.

I also acknowledge the valued support and assistance from the former Eureka Centre team of Robert Allan, the Centre’s Education Coordinator; Joel Coatsworth, the Centre Coordinator; and our visitor services staff, all of whom shared ownership and engagement of our development programs in order to achieve the highest quality outcomes.

I recognised that the delivery of this outcome needed an open and transparent process that involves tendering and expressions of interest from suitably qualified groups.

 

Why redevelop the Eureka Centre?

  1. Eureka is a significant event in Australia’s history and, as its important legacy to the nation was to provide the foundation for the development of its current democratic systems, it must be celebrated.
  2. Eureka is much more than a historic event; its significance in the development of the country’s democracy must be implanted in the psyche of Australians as was seen during Eureka 150, in 2004.  A visit to the Centre should become a ’must do’ when visiting Ballarat.  The sense of pilgrimage must be encouraged.
  3. Whilst Ballarat is the custodian of Eureka, Eureka belongs to the nation and therefore should be the responsibility of all three tiers of government.

It was by Council agreed that there was absolutely no purpose in redeveloping the Eureka Centre/ Precinct unless the essential elements as recommended in this report were implemented.

Those recommendations were:

1.    To create a statutory body to manage the centre.

2.    That the Eureka Flag must be relocated to the Eureka Stockade as an annex of the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

3.    That the flag must be recognised federally under the Flags Act as a national flag.

4.    That the centre’s floor space needs to be at least doubled, without compromising the integrity of the building, to accommodate the opportunity for further growth in student numbers, conferencing and travelling exhibitions etc. Not to mention the need for undercover comfortable space for people especially during Ballarat’s unpredictable weather months.

5.    To review the exhibition design, so as to ‘awaken the past, celebrate the future’.

6.    That the Eureka Pool and the caravan park are incongruous with the precinct and must be relocated prior to any redevelopment.

7.    That the visitor centre should stay at Eureka. It is essential that we bring visitors to this nationally significant historic site, which is Ballarat’s point of difference, even during the redevelopment as it will encourage interest in the precinct in the future.

8.    That we must develop a national/international marketing strategy and communications plan and cultivate partnerships to realise the potential of this significant Australian story.

Following all the research, combined with my visit to the United States in 2008 and my subsequent discussions with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the Boston Tea Party Museum, it was determined that the viability of any cultural centre development must be based on sustainability, the visitor experience – the WOW factor – , interactivity and general appeal and engagement to people all ages.

Importantly, the centre’s exhibitions must have annual renewal to refresh them, and any design must encourage repeat visitation.

It was noted that Eureka is:

  • Ballarat’s point of difference; it is what sets Ballarat apart from every other city in Australia,
  • also of national significance – Eureka belongs to the nation.
  • one of the most significant events in Australia’s history, a seminal occurrence that created the democracy that we enjoy today,
  • representative of the ‘fair go’ and what is described as the Australian spirit; in a more formal sense so too the Ballarat Reform League Charter, which is the nation’s ‘bill of rights’ that forms the basis of all the state and federal government constitutions.
  • the embodiment of the right to a say in how the country is governed and the fundamental right to be able to determine its future.

I was appointed Director of the Eureka Centre in 2002.

Highlights of my time at Eureka included:

  • Developing and implementing the concept for the Eureka 150th anniversary celebrations in 2004.
  • Securing funding from the state government and, in partnership with it, staging the 150th celebrations which achieved major national exposure.
  • Gained funding for the implementation of the Eureka Stockade Gardens Masterplan, the Eureka Stockade themed playground development and the Eureka Circle installation.
  • Developing and implementing the Eureka Education program:
    • Successful annual Special Partnerships Program (SPP) grants from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development for the development and delivery of the Eureka Education programs to primary, secondary and tertiary students and their teachers and lecturers.
    • Providing educational materials to teachers for Centre visits and distance education. Included in the education kit was a request for feedback for continuous improvement purposes.
    • Repeat visitation from schools was a developing trend
    • Partnership with the University of Ballarat’s School of Education, providing opportunities for students to access the centre as part of their studies and to assist with their lesson planning.
    • Engaging committed sessional teachers to assist with the delivery and development of the program.
    • With very limited funds, we were able to build a unique, extensive collection of reference books and material that was made accessible to the public
  • Played a leadership role in the development of concepts for the stage two redevelopment of the centre and the subsequent SKM, PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Ernst and Young’s studies.
  • I was instrumental in securing state government funding of $5 million and, with Steve Bracks, securing a further $5 million from the federal government.
  • I was also responsible for encouraging Steve Bracks and Rob Knowles to be joint patrons of Eureka and MADE, and I remain their advisor and gatekeeper.

During my time at Council I had the opportunity to visit the United States and Europe on several occasions, and during those visits had meetings with representatives from the Australian Embassy in Washington, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the Boston Tea Party Museum and the Urban Strategy Group of America.

In planning for the redevelopment of the centre the following processes became clear and needed to be considered:

  • It is was essential to celebrate the spirit and significance of the precinct
  • Although the centre operates in the cultural tourism sector, it must not compromise the integrity of the story for entertainment’s sake, however, the experience should be about dream making.
  • The exhibition must be show and tell.  It must have a WOW factor centrepiece, artifacts, material, speeches, state of the art technology etc.
  • The need to develop all aspects of education, particularly state and federal education curricula.
  • Repeat visitation is essential to sustainability, hence the need for the WOW factor and supporting promotional activities.
  • An essential activity is to budget for annual exhibition renewal
  • And, finally, to deliver on the promise, to be faithful to and create a centre that commemorates and celebrates the Eureka story and its legacy our democracy.

Issues that at affected the original Eureka Centre

An overrun in building costs caused the centre’s original exhibition budget to be cut from $1.2 million to $600,000, severely affecting the telling of the Eureka story.

Sadly, the telling of the Eureka story excluded an explanation of its connection to world issues at the time, dare I say the Centre was in a time warp of ‘1854 Ballarat’, and didn’t subsequently celebrate Eureka’s legacy that of Australia’s democratic development thru to today with hope for the future.

This compromised the quality and integrity of the interpretive galleries and thereby the visitor experience, leading to lower than expected attendances.

Sovereign Hill as the original operator of the centre had as its visitation target 80,000 people (1998) visiting annually; it achieved a peak of 40,000.

The development was exacerbated by serious tensions between the various interest groups, individuals and historians that were all seeking to influence the development of the Centre. Nothing has changed!

In June 2002, after three years of operating the Centre, Sovereign Hill advised Council that it could no longer absorb the financial losses and handed back responsibility for the management of the Centre to Council.

In February 2003, the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park Committee also handed back the management of the Eureka Stockade Gardens to Council.

From September 2002, I, as the new director, undertook a thorough review of the centre’s operations with the aim of stemming an expected reduction in visitation, following the loss of Sovereign Hill’s marketing input.

This was achieved. However, the ageing, static exhibition was not sufficiently sophisticated to satisfy visitors’ expectations in this technologically advanced age and produced no ‘WOW’ factor to stimulate return visitation.

In 2003, I successfully sought funding from the Bracks government for the redevelopment of the Eureka Stockade Gardens and the hugely successful Eureka 150 celebrations which I was proud to coordinate.

The centre further developed research and education opportunities, particularly for schools whereby the Centre became an extended ‘classroom’, providing a diversity of programs and activities that supported the schools’ curricula.

So in real terms the major issues facing the original centre were as follows:

  • In the first year when managed by Council (2002-3), the centre continued to attract similar visitation levels to those that Sovereign Hill had been realising.
  • Visitation levels then declined due to competition from other attractions and the need for revitalisation of the exhibition.
  • Schools’ visitation, on the other hand, increased year by year with over 10,000 students visiting the centre in its final year, which was the result of providing a deeper learning experience that built on classroom learning.
  • We identified that the major issue facing the centre since ‘day one’ was that there was no reason to return to the centre for repeat visitation; there was no major draw card such as the Eureka Flag, or the Ballarat Reform League Charter, or other appropriate artifacts to prompt a ‘pilgrimage’ back to Eureka.
  • The standard of the exhibition galleries was not commensurate with the significance of the Eureka story, nor that expected of a ‘state-of-the-art’ cultural attraction.
  • Much of the exhibition equipment and materials had reached their ‘end of life’ and replacements were difficult to find and were expensive; we even used eBay to find components.
  • A major positive, however, was that the sense of place had been further strengthened by the successful redevelopment of the Eureka Stockade Gardens in 2004 through funding from both Council and the then Bracks Government, and its listing on the National Heritage List 3 December 2004.
  • Importantly, Eureka was clearly identified by various research undertaken to be Ballarat’s major point of difference.
  • The centre had the potential to become a Centre of National Significance.
  • It also had the potential to assist with the implementation of the then Ballarat Tourism strategy so as to target higher yield tourist segments.
  • The centre’s layout and restrictive space limited its ability to host and display a collection of significance.  The thematic content needed to be broadened, large spaces for temporary or travelling exhibitions created, student and general public spaces.
  • The former building design inhibited the sense of historical connection with the Exhibition Galleries and the Gardens (THE PLACE) as it faced away from the Gardens
  • Overall, the viability of the centre with the then configuration was simply not sustainable.

I further recommended that Council explore with both the state and federal governments the possibility of converting the original centre to a statutory body with national representation and develop it into a new incarnation as the National Centre for the celebration of Australian Democracy.

To be fair, Council prior to 2008 acknowledged this and the need for the possible relocation of the Eureka Flag to the Eureka Centre,  but acknowledged that this was a matter that could only be considered should funding be available for appropriate climate controls and security.

Therefore we determined that we must:

  • redefine our market
  • make sure that Eureka and democracy are a part of the national curriculum.
  • ensure the interpretive exhibition depicts the past, present and future – yesterday, today and tomorrow. to ensure it ‘awakens the past, celebrates the future’.
  • ensure the centrepiece is the Eureka story with the Flag of the Southern Cross prominent as its symbol.  Other topics to be included to explain and support the significance of the Eureka story are details of the issues prevalent at the time, the development of the Australian democracy story, worldwide connection to Eureka, the people, multiculturalism, the celebration of the Ballarat Reform League Charter, and the immediate outcomes following that fateful morning of 3 December 1854 and its longer-term legacy.
  • explain Eureka in the context of other significant events in our democratic history – convict uprising, Federation, Barcaldine Qld, war, peace keeping etc.
  • explore what our democracy means, and differentiate it from that of other Western countries.
  • celebrate today, our future and where we are heading as Australian people.
  • define the business – a cultural tourism centre first, conference / function centre second.
  • consider an after-hours attractant such as an outdoor sound and light projection
  • retain the centre’s sail as a Ballarat landmark marking the spot of the Eureka uprising
  • install a shard of light pointing to the Southern Cross constellation in the night sky
  • connect our story to the worldwide movement for freedom and democracy.
  • relocate the caravan park and swimming pool, as they are incongruous with this national historic site, and landscape their former sites as a greenspace for the people until other appropriate opportunities present themselves.

I also firmly believed that the primary Ballarat Visitor information Centre should have stayed at the Eureka Precinct, this nationally recognised site of significance which is Ballarat’s point of difference.  A visit to Ballarat must be via the Eureka precinct. Eureka and its legacy are precious and must be preserved and celebrated.

Has all this happened? NO, but what I do know is that the new centre doesn’t do justice to the telling of the story of the quintessential development of this democratic nation and its people, a celebration of Eureka and its legacy to our democracy.

I need to make it very clear I was removed from any involvement with the development of the new centre by the CEO back in 2009. I have from time to time offered advice and support!

Other issues affecting the centre and gardens

The original feasibility study suggested that visitation to the original Eureka Centre would be 80,000+ people each year!

In the first year when managed by Council, the centre continued to attract similar visitation levels to those that Sovereign Hill had been realising – 40,000 to 45,000 people.

Visitation levels declined due to competition from other attractions and the need for revitalisation of the exhibition.

The way forward

  • Eureka Centre Stage 2 – The Eureka Centre – the national centre for Australian democracy.
  • The WOW factor – the Eureka Flag must be relocated to the centre as an annex of the gallery and exhibited as originally proposed; a free to view on an upper level and a pay for view on the lower level where it is displayed along with the Ballarat Reform League Charter and other significant artefacts curated by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery
  • Themes to be featured in the new centre: Celebrating our democracy; Eureka to today, based on the ‘freedom rising’ exhibit at the National Constitution Center; Eureka / Ballarat the birthplace of Australian democracy; celebrating the past, awakening the future; the worldwide connection, the chartist movement; the significance of the Ballarat Reform League Charter; celebrating the men, women and children of Eureka; the pursuit of democracy and the Australian spirit.
  • Celebrate fairness and a fair go for all – the Australian spirit.
  • Artefacts and materials, including significant speeches etc, must be on display in audio/ video format
  • It is essential that the exhibition space be at least doubled, without compromising the integrity of the building, to ensure that there are large spaces available to accommodate conferences / travelling exhibitions
  • The primary Ballarat Visitor information Centre must stay at the Eureka Precinct, the nationally recognized site of significance which is Ballarat’s point of difference. A visit to Ballarat must be via Eureka.
  • The caravan park and swimming pool are incongruous with this national historic site and must be relocated and and landscape their former sites as a greenspace for the people.until other appropriate opportunities present themselves.

APPENDICES

Background – Eureka

Eureka stands as a seminal event in Australia’s history, arguably the singular event that created the foundation for the democracy that we enjoy today.

The Eureka Flag remains the enduring symbol of the ‘fair go’ and is identified with the unique Australia spirit.  So, too, is the Ballarat Reform League Charter, our ‘bill of rights’ that forms the basis of all the state and commonwealth constitutions.

The Eureka experience provided us with the right to a say in how we are governed.

Eureka provided all Australians with the fundamental right to be able to determine its future.

Eureka is not only Ballarat’s point of difference, and what sets us apart from every other city in Australia, it is also of national significance.  Eureka belongs to the nation.

Eureka was where the people of the day fought against taxation without representation, the right to a say in how they are governed and the right to fairness and a fair go.

It is our responsibility to ensure that we celebrate appropriately the people of Eureka and their legacy and our precious and unique democracy.

Eureka was the birthplace of the Australian spirit, and is at the heart of the Australia psyche of what it is to be Australian – our values, particularly the fair go, mateship and the pursuit of fairness as a proud and free people.

Like the storming of the Bastille and the Boston Tea Party before it, the Eureka Rebellion demonstrated the refusal of citizens to be dominated by unfair government and laws.

The Eureka Flag is the symbol of Australian democracy and the ‘fair go’, the spirit of unity. The flag must be recognised under the Federal flags act.

The union movement has made it clear that the Eureka Flag is not a union flag; it is a symbol of unity, of fairness.

 

FACTS

Eureka, Ballarat, the nation

Eureka happened in Ballarat, and belongs to the nation.

Eureka sets Ballarat apart from any other city in Australia.

The Eureka Stockade is also registered on the National Heritage List and the State Heritage Register.

It is our link to the pursuit worldwide for freedom, and is particularly connected to the Chartist movement of the period.

Peter Tobin formed the Eureka Celebrations Committee, along with Doug Sarah, in the 1970s with the objective of ensuring that the Eureka uprising was recognised as a nationally significant event and a celebration of the struggle for democracy in this country.

With the support of Eureka Joint Patron, the Hon Rob Knowles, the vision for a Eureka Centre was realised through the Kennett Government.

My maternal great great grandfather, Morgan Lee, came from Moycullen, near Galway in the west of Ireland, to Ballarat in 1853 to find a new beginning following the death of his first wife and son during the Potato Famine of the late 1840s.

Morgan was at the Eureka Stockade.  He was a successful miner and a major shareholder in the Band of Hope and Albion Mine here in Ballarat.   He also became Ballarat’s first millionaire, but, unfortunately, due to the recession in the 1870s, lost much of his wealth due to his generosity to people and some poor investments. The only thing I inherited was his impatience!

He was, I am told, a good man; he had a wonderful sense of caring, with that generosity to boot.

Morgan is buried in the new cemetery

And today, I pay tribute to him, and the men, women and children of Eureka, as well as the people who have made a contribution to the development of the Ballarat community and the nation.

The bottom line is that:

  • Eureka is a significant historic event in Australia’s history and its important legacy, the laying of the foundation for the development of our democratic freedoms, must be celebrated appropriately.

 

  • Eureka is much more than tourism; it is an event whose significance must be implanted in the psyche of Australians as was seen during Eureka 150.  A visit to the new Museum of Australian Democracy, which opened on 4 May 2013 should become a ’must-do’ activity when visiting Ballarat. The sense of pilgrimage must be encouraged – that sense of PLACE.
  • Whilst Ballarat is the custodian of Eureka, Eureka belongs to the nation and therefore the responsibility should be shared by the three tiers of government.

 

I am reliably informed that some people believe where Eureka is concerned, I am of the past – the former Eureka Centre should not be part of the future that is MADE. I say that is simply not true and here is why:

It is essential to understand the issues surrounding the original development of the Eureka Centre, particularly when I wasn’t involved

The Eureka Centre was established to interpret and commemorate the events of Eureka 1854.

The Centre, which opened in 1998 and managed by Sovereign Hill, was an initiative of the Eureka Commemorations Committee, the City of Ballarat and the then Kennett Government.

It continued to receive support from the Bracks and Brumby Governments and now the Baillieu and Napthine Governments.  The last three federal Labor governments have also contributed financially and supported the new centre.

Further Background

The proposed redevelopment of the original centre was predicated on the following:

  • The Eureka Centre was established to interpret and commemorate the events of Eureka 1854 and to celebrate its legacy.
  • The Eureka Stockade Gardens precinct, in which the centre is located, is recognised by both the federal and state governments as a site and place of national significance and therefore must be preserved.
  • The Eureka Stockade Gardens be maintained as an important recreation facility for both the local community and visitors.

An overrun in building costs caused the centre’s exhibition budget to be cut from $1.2 million to $600,000, severely affecting the telling of the Eureka story. This compromised the quality and integrity of the interpretive galleries, and thereby the visitor experience, leading to lower than expected attendances numbers.

Ron Egeberg

Former Director The Eureka Centre 2002 – 2009

309 Neill Street

Ballarat Victoria 3350

0419 314 286

e. ron@brentron.net

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