A work colleague asked me in what ways Ballarat is similar to Paris (yes it was an odd conversation!). The three things that immediately sprung to mind were
- People in Ballarat are very dog-oriented (massive generalisation I know)
- Sturt Street, the main street of Ballarat brings to mind the tree-lined boulevards of Paris- very wide, and filled with historic buildings and statues
- Like Parisians, Ballarat residents are very proud of their history
And their history is something which is taken SERIOUSLY.
As a town which was founded by the discovery of gold, history is everywhere in Ballarat. There’s Sovereign Hill which recreates the town as a gold mining settlement, the historical buildings (Lydiard Street is exceptional), and then there is the Eureka Stockade.
The Eureka Stockade which took place in 1854 had a lasting effect upon the political history of Victoria- Peter Lalor, one of the leaders went on to become a member of Parliament and was Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The Eureka Flag is one of the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s most prized possessions. There is also the Eureka Centre which is supposedly built in the site of the actual Stockade (there are two other sites which local historians also claimed to be the actual site)
I was telling a friend yesterday of the number of events scheduled to commemorate the 155th anniversary of the event- at least 15, which include flag raising lectures, ceremonies at the Old cemetery, a march to the Eureka Centre, a run and a dinner in Melbourne for the Children of Eureka. That’s for the descendants of those miners who fought the troopers.
Another “historic” monument in the Ballarat area is Kryal Castle, a mock castle nestled at the base of Mt Warrenheip. Always wanting to visit it as a child, I was thwarted by thrifty parents. Finally visiting as an adult, I sadly realised its heyday had passed. The exhibits were a bit lame, and the staff had the air of friendly desperation. Used as a place for raves and concerts recently, the latest proposal is to convert it into Hogwarts. All I can say is, good luck! They will need it when Warner Bros comes knocking with a little matter as copyright infringement…