Ballarat – the city of creativity, innovation and endeavour


Speech by Ron Egeberg to Regional Victoria on Show
Melbourne Exhibition Centre April 2012.

Thanks to an illustrious heritage, visit this 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 culture. Ballarat is a progressive, innovative and creative city of endeavour.

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 along 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’.

Storytelling through artistic methods has been and continues to be a powerful means by which the indigenous population educates and shares its rich cultural heritage.

In the early nineteenth century, the squatters first came 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 and stand against 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 3 December 1854. It was an event that became a defining moment in Australia’s history.

Consequently, Ballarat and Eureka are known as the birthplace of the Australian spirit, the spirit of fairness and a fair go for all.

The money that flowed into Ballarat with the discovery of gold in the mid-19th century resulted in the creation of a city of stature with exceptional history, 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.

After the austerity of the Great Depression and the Second World War, new-found optimism saw Melbourne and regional Victoria boom.

The idea of an Olympic games, first mooted in 1946, became a reality when Melbourne, described as the ‘central city of the Commonwealth’, was declared the host of the 1956 Olympic Games, narrowly beating Beunos Aires and seven other contenders, which were Mexico City and six cities from the USA – Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Melbourne’s bid promoted the city as having first-class facilities in accommodation, transport and entertainment. A promotional film praised the city’s fine wining and dining. (It overlooked the lack of culinary attraction and the ‘six o’clock swill’ – pubs closing at 6 pm – which was abolished in 1966.)

And, of course, Lake Wendouree in Ballarat was to be the venue for the Olympic rowing and canoeing, which created international exposure for Ballarat, the ‘Garden City’.

And hasn’t the city changed since then.

Today, Ballarat is a city of history, culture, innovation and creativity.

It can be felt when you walk the streets and marvel at the grand buildings and discover the cultural treasures.

Stroll along Ballarat’s historic Lydiard Street to discover a treasure trove of architectural beauty and places of cultural significance such as the Art Gallery, Her Majesty’s 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 Australian public life, such as Victorian premiers Holloway, Gillies, Bolte and Bracks, 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.

Ballarat is a great place to live. It has a population of over 100,000 people and offers a clean, safe environment and all the physical and social infrastructure you would expect from a capital city. Hence its reputation as the capital of western Victoria.

There are over 35 kilometres of walking trails and cycling paths that are complemented by 147 neighbourhood parks and 45 sports grounds, offering residents a diversity of recreational opportunities.

The city also has a diverse range of community groups, service clubs, and sports clubs catering for a wide range of interests.

For 160 years the arts has also been considered a critical part of the social fabric of Ballarat. The city is steeped in artistic achievement. It has been the birthplace of a number of international actors, musicians, entertainers, inventors, and television and film makers. One such person was Henry Sutton who originally discovered the process for what was to become television.

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 in Ballarat are not superfluous to society; they are an underestimated force that is moving it forward. There is more to the arts in Ballarat than meets the eye. Creativity is everywhere!

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

The city is 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.

Ballarat has a vibrant and diverse arts and culture scene, offering an array of arts-based community groups for residents to be part of that will stimulate their creative development and thereby contribute to the artistic life of this city.

So for Ballarat, the arts are a critical ingredient to the city’s forward-thinking philosophy and approach to change. They continue to inspire us to think about who we are and how we wish to be defined.

Ballarat’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 and community space
  • the remarkable Mechanics’ Institute – an original learning centre steeped in history
  • great cafes, pubs and restaurants established in historical settings.

Today, the City of Ballarat, along with the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, is implementing the city’s Cultural Diversity strategy

Today, migrants who settle in Ballarat are either part of the general migration stream, have moved here to reunite with their families, 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 and the Russian states. These people are creating a new and diverse multicultural community in Ballarat, reminiscent of the original cosmopolitan community that was on the goldfields in the 1850s.

With a population of just over 100,000, eight per cent of Ballarat’s residents were born overseas, and of those half have come from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Ballarat is a regional centre with appeal.

There are significant advantages that Ballarat has to offer.

These include:

  • It is 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
  • new industry opportunities
  • excellent location and supporting transport infrastructure
  • a strong education and research sector
  • world-class health facilities
  • a regional retail hub
  • access to significant regional catchments.

As the capital of Western Victoria; manufacturing, tourism, health, IT research, community services, education and retail, 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 which produce a wide range of products for local and international markets. Consider the creative endeavour that goes into developing this sector – particularly, research and development.

The Ballarat community has contributed significantly to the development of a robust entrepreneurial spirit, always supportive and encouraging of 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 and new creative industries developing.

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

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

Ballarat’s proximity to Melbourne is also an important factor. The potential of a Ballarat–Melbourne 60-minute fast train service on the ‘Eureka Line’ will mean that it’s viable for new residents from Melbourne to continue to work in the CBD. Commuter numbers to Melbourne have doubled over recent years, and tourists are also coming by train to experience this wonderful city.

Ballarat is ideally positioned; it’s within a 75-minute drive of Melbourne, and the Melbourne and Avalon airports, close to the port of Geelong, and strategically located on a key rail corridor and the intersection of a number of major highways.

Ballarat is a great place to live for people of all ages. It has a supportive community which acknowledges the importance of family life.

The Ballarat City Council is committed to maintaining a child- and family-friendly environment in the city, and supports important social and economic development initiatives, including the arts.

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

Ballarat’s childcare industry offers a range of options, as does the education sector, offering 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 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 can explore its world-class attractions and arts and cultural institutions, as well as appreciate the city’s history and architectural heritage and its parks and gardens.

Ballarat has the world-renowned attractions including:

  • Sovereign Hill and the associated Gold Museum
  • the Ballarat Wildlife Park
  • the Eureka Stockade Gardens and Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE).
  • Lake Wendouree and the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

This historic city is fascinating for anyone seeking to discover the intrigues of the past whilst enjoying today’s comforts and delights. It provides an opportunity for today’s Australians to go on their own journeys, make their own discoveries about Eureka and our country’s democratic values, and to reflect on what it means to be Australian in the 21st century.

Ballarat is also well known for hosting national and international sporting events that involve local people, Australians from other parts of the country and overseas participants.

Ballarat is proud of its beautiful Lake Wendouree and its famous Botanical Gardens on the western edge of the lake.

Ballarat is also the gateway to the Goldfields tourist region. Some two 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.

As I said earlier, Ballarat’s culture, developed over the past 160 years, recognises that arts and culture contribute to our future prosperity through community engagement, economic development and health and wellbeing.

Recent decades have brought many great and positive changes to Ballarat and its way of life.

As you will have gleaned from my presentation, Ballarat offers an excellent lifestyle, has exceptional cultural institutions, and its arts and culture focus effectively encourages community participation, diversity and innovation, and is committed to the health and wellbeing of its community through being a city of creativity and innovation.

Ballarat can truly be proud of its 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 was for our forebears some 160 years ago.

As you can see, a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle can be enjoyed in Ballarat, where people can experience the rich and diverse offerings of a regional city that is close to the state’s capital city.


Presentation by:


Ron Egeberg

Manager Arts & Culture

City of Ballarat, 2012



Categories: Council
This post was written by , posted on August 29, 2015 Saturday at 9:20 am

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