Ballarat – Arts, Culture, Lifestyle and History

Thanks to an illustrious heritage, Ballarat has the best of both worlds – a captivating history and a contemporary urban lifestyle with outdoor escapes, world class attractions and a rich arts, food and wine experience.

Our cosmopolitan city boasts all the artistic and cultural wealth that comes with its spectacular rise from a humble mining settlement to a world famous city.

Ballarat has a temperate European climate with four distinct seasons:

  • Spring    – same as Athens, Greece.
  • Summer – same as Barcelona, Spain
  • Autumn  – same as Rome, Italy
  • Winter    – same as Nice, France

It’s a place where you can sip coffee in a chic city cafe, then, minutes later, be walking a bushland trail surrounded by the beauty of nature.

For tens of thousands of years, the place we now know as Ballarat was the place of rest and ceremony for the Wathaurong people who called it ‘Balla-arat’ which means resting place.

Story telling through artistic methods has and continues to be a powerful means for the indigenous population to educate and share a rich cultural heritage.

In the early nineteenth century first came the squatters to graze their sheep and cattle on the rich pastures.

In 1851 the cry of GOLD! went out and the Goldfields became Australia’s first multicultural community with some 20 nationalities represented on the Ballarat Goldfields.

A rich tapestry of cultures was born.

The diggers brought with them strong values, their defiance at the trampling of their rights by the government and the Police, led to Australia’s only armed civil uprising which occurred in Ballarat at the Eureka Stockade on the 3rd of December 1854, an event that became a defining moment in Australia’s history.

The money that flowed into Ballarat with the discovery of gold in the mid-19th century, resulted in a city with elegant architecture, broad tree-lined streetscapes and cultivated gardens.

This early prosperity meant that the city was always destined to become rich in culture and heritage.

For 160 years the arts has been considered a critical part of the social fabric of Ballarat.

We enjoy a vibrant and diverse culture in Ballarat, with an array of opportunities for residents to be part of arts based community groups which provide opportunities for creative development across all aspects of the arts for all the family.

The city’s central Heritage and Arts precinct boasts;

  • magnificent Sturt Street, a wide boulevard planted with elm trees and lined with statues,
  • the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the oldest and most significant gallery in regional Australia
  • Her Majesty’s Theatre, the oldest continuously operating theatre in Australia
  • the historic Mining Exchange, now used as an arts & community space
  • Ballarat’s remarkable Mechanics’ Institute,
  • as well as great cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Today, Ballarat exudes history, culture and creativity.

You can feel it when you walk the streets, marvel at the grand buildings and discover the cultural treasures.

Promenade along Ballarat’s historic Lydiard Street to discover a treasure-trove of architectural beauty and places of cultural significance such as our Art Gallery, our Theatre, Craig’s Royal Hotel and the Mining Exchange.

Ballarat’s unique combination of attributes makes it one of Australia’s leading regional centres and it has been the home of a number of people who have been prominent in Australia’s public life such as;

Premiers; Bolte, Bracks, Holloway and Gillies,  and

Prime Ministers; Curtin, Scullin, Deakin and Menzies

American writer Mark Twain visited Ballarat in the 1890s and gave lectures in the Mechanics’ Institute in Sturt Street. While future US president, Herbert Hoover, made an unsuccessful search for gold to the north of Ballarat in 1905.

The arts is well represented with international actors, musicians, entertainers, television & film makers and inventors such as Henry Sutton who originally discovered the process for what was to become television.

Ballarat is a great place to live, with low commuting times to Melbourne, a clean, safe environment and all the facilities you would expect from a capital city. Hence our reputation as the capital of Western Victoria.

We have quality sports and recreation infrastructure to provide our community with a healthy and well balanced lifestyle.

There are over thirty five kilometres of walking trails and cycling paths which are complemented by 147 neighbourhood parks and 45 sports grounds, offering residents a diversity of recreational opportunities.

The city also enjoys a diverse range of community groups, service clubs, sports clubs and arts based societies and groups catering for a wide range of people’s interests.

Today the City of Ballarat, along with the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, is implementing our Cultural Diversity Strategy

Today, migrants who settle in Ballarat are either part of the general migration stream; have moved here to reunite with their family; or have arrived as refugees who have been granted permanent residence.

Their countries of origin include: Sudan, China, Japan, India, South East Asia, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Europe & Russian States creating a new and diverse multicultural community, mirroring the original cosmopolitan community that was the goldfields in the 1850s.

With a population now close to 100,000, 8% of Ballarat’s residents were born overseas and of those half were from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Let’s be honest, there is a common perception of the arts, that they don’t really have much value beyond aesthetics.

That’s simply not true, the arts are not superfluous to society; they are an underestimated force that is moving it forward.

Hence, there is more to the arts in Ballarat than meets the eye. Creativity is everywhere!

Ballarat is built on creative endeavour and has influenced the city for over 160 years with a diverse range of industries and employment opportunities as well as a offering a healthy and rewarding lifestyle.

Ballarat is a regional centre with appeal.

There are significant advantages that Ballarat has to offer.

These include;

  • one of Australia’s fastest growing regional cities,
  • residents enjoy the educational, health, employment and lifestyle options of a capital city,
  • exceptional arts facilities and a vibrant arts community,
  • affordable home ownership,
  • new employment opportunities,
  • a sophisticated business sector,
  • excellent location and supporting transport infrastructure,
  • a strong education and research sector,
  • world class health facilities,
  • a regional retail hub,
  • hassle free public transport, and
  • access to significant regional catchments.

Hence manufacturing, tourism, health, IT research, community services, education, retailing along with the support services of banking, finance and government, are strengthening Ballarat’s role as a key regional service provider.

Ballarat is home to almost 200 manufacturing businesses producing a wide range of products for local and international markets.

Consider the creative endeavour that goes into developing this sector – particularly, research & development.

Our community has contributed significantly to the development of a robust, entrepreneurial spirit, always encouraging and supporting new, creative and innovative ways of doing business.

Ballarat is home to over 100 Information and Communication Technology businesses, with the industry continuing to grow.

The influence of the arts is strongly evident in this sector demonstrating how imagination is transformed into creation.

Strategic partnerships with the locally growing information technology sector and tertiary institutions are adding to Ballarat’s increasing importance as a knowledge centre within Victoria.

Importantly the Ballarat-Melbourne 60 minute fast train service on the ‘Eureka Line” has doubled commuter numbers and is bringing new residents to Ballarat and its environs. Many also commute to Melbourne for work.

Ballarat is ideally positioned; within an hour’s drive from Melbourne and Melbourne & Avalon Airports, close to the port of Geelong, and strategically located on a key rail corridor and major highways.

Ballarat is a great place to live for people of all ages. We have a solid community, which acknowledges the importance of family life.

Ballarat City Council is committed to maintaining a child and family friendly environment in our city, and supporting important social and economic development initiatives notably its commitment to the arts.

Residents have access to two major hospitals, public & private – Ballarat Base Hospital and St John of God, also day procedure complexes and more than 100 medical practitioners.

Ballarat’s childcare industry offers a range of options as does the education sector with some of the finest public and private primary and secondary schools, two universities, and a TAFE facility.

The arts is strongly represented in schools. Young people can also participate in a range of arts based activities from visual and creative arts through to non professional performing arts groups that encourage, confidence, personal development and self esteem.

And of course Ballarat is one of Victoria’s premier tourist destinations where visitors explore our art and cultural attractions, our history and architectural heritage and our parks and gardens.

Ballarat has the world-renowned attractions including:

–       Sovereign Hill and the associated Gold Museum,

–       And the Ballarat Wildlife Park.

Our historic city is fascinating for anyone seeking to discover the intrigue of the past with today’s comforts and delights.

A significant development in Ballarat is the construction of the new $11 million Australia Democracy Centre at Eureka, which will open in December this year.

It will provide an opportunity for today’s Australians to go on their own journeys, and make their own discoveries about Eureka and our democratic values, and to reflect on what it means to be Australian in the 21 century.

Ballarat hosts national and international sporting events that involve both local people and participants from throughout Australia.

Ballarat is proud of its beautiful Lake Wendouree (now full of water) and Botanical Gardens precinct.

Ballarat is also an Olympic City, having hosted the rowing and canoeing events for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

And Ballarat is the gateway to the Goldfields tourist region!

Some 2 million visitors come to Ballarat each year, contributing over half a billion dollars annually to the local economy.

As one of Australia’s largest inland cities, Ballarat offers a powerful combination of well-suited location, exceptional services and creative endeavour combined with a prosperous lifestyle.

So for Ballarat the arts are a critical ingredient to forward-thinking and change. They continue to inspire

us to think about who we are and how we wish to be defined.

As I said earlier our culture developed over some 160 years aims to inspire future generations in our community and beyond through arts and cultural enrichment, recognising that arts and culture contribute to our future prosperity from a sense of community engagement, economic development and health and wellbeing.

We are developing the arts with the aim to entertain, provoke and challenge residents and visitors with access to all levels of cultural programs as both consumers and producers.

Recent decades have brought great and positive changes to our city and our way of life

As you will have gleaned from my presentation, Ballarat has an excellent lifestyle, excellent cultural institutions, an Arts & Culture focus that effectively encourages engagement in the Arts, encourages diversity and innovation and is committed to the health and wellbeing of our community and a City of Creativity and Innovation.

Ballarat can truly be proud of its a reputation as a city of arts, culture, history, heritage and economic prosperity.

The City has developed into a hub for creativity, artistic endeavour and exciting events of which I am proud to have made a contribution.

The future is as exciting and as full of promise as it seemed to our forebears some 160 years ago.

Ballarat is harnessing the spirit that built this city and together we keep the dream alive.

Categories: Blog, Uncategorized
This post was written by , posted on June 4, 2012 Monday at 1:59 am

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