Select Page

Join Our Community
You May Also Like


Ballarat is a city in the Central Highlands of Victoria, Australia.


  • Area:3.781 km2
  • Elevation:452 m
  • Population:113,725
  • Local Government Area:City of Ballarat


Ballarat is a city in the Central Highlands of Victoria, Australia. In 2020, Ballarat had a population of 109,553, making it the third-largest city in Victoria.Within months of Victoria separating from the colony of New South Wales in 1851, gold was discovered near Ballarat, sparking the Victorian gold rush. Ballarat subsequently became a thriving boomtown that for a time rivalled Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, in terms of wealth and cultural influence. In 1854, following a period of civil disobedience in Ballarat over gold licenses, local miners launched an armed uprising against government forces. Known as the Eureka Rebellion, it led to the introduction of male suffrage in Australia, and as such is interpreted as the origin of Australian democracy. The rebellion's symbol, the Eureka Flag, has become a national symbol. It was on display at Ballarat's Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE) from 2013 until MADE closed in 2018. Proclaimed a city in 1871, Ballarat's prosperity, unlike that of many other gold boomtowns, continued until the late 19th century, as the city's fields experienced sustained high gold yields for many decades. By the turn of the century, Ballarat's importance relative to Melbourne rapidly faded with the slowing of gold extraction. It has endured as a major regional centre and is the commercial capital and largest city of the Central Highlands, as well as a significant tourist destination. Ballarat is known for its history, culture and well-preserved colonial-era heritage, with much of the city subject to heritage overlays. # History ## Prehistory and European settlement The Ballarat region was first populated by the Wadawurrung people, an Indigenous Australian people. The first Europeans to sight the area were an 1837 party of six mostly Scottish squatters from Geelong, led by Somerville Learmonth, who were in search of land less affected by the severe drought for their sheep to graze. The party scaled Mount Buninyong; among them were Somerville's brother Thomas Livingstone Learmonth, William Cross Yuille and Henry Anderson, all three of whom later claimed land in what is now Ballarat. The Yuille family, Scottish settlers Archibald Buchanan Yuille and his brother William Cross Yuille, arrived in 1837 and squatted a 10,000-acre (4,000 ha) sheep run. The first houses were built near Woolshed Creek by William Yuille and Anderson (Sebastopol), while Yuille erected a hut at Black Swamp (Lake Wendouree) in 1838. Outsiders originally knew of the settlement as Yuille's Station and Yuille's Swamp. Archibald Yuille named the area "Ballaarat". Some claim the name is derived from a local Wathaurong Aboriginal word for the area, balla arat. The meaning of this word is not certain; however several translations have been made and it is generally thought to mean "resting place". In some dialects, balla means "bent elbow", which is translated to mean reclining or resting and arat meaning "place". Another claim is that the name derives from Yuille's native Gaelic Baile Ararat (Town of Ararat), alluding to the resting place of Noah's Ark. The present spelling was officially adopted by the City of Ballarat in 1996. ## Gold rush era The first publicised discovery of gold in the region was by Thomas Hiscock on 2 August 1851, in Buninyong to the south. The find brought other prospectors to the area and on 19 August 1851, more gold was found at Poverty Point. Within days, a gold rush began, bringing thousands of prospectors to the Yarrowee Valley, which became known as the Ballarat diggings. Yields were particularly high, with the first prospectors in the area extracting between half an ounce (which was more than the average wage of the time) and up to five ounces of alluvial gold per day. As news of the Victorian gold rush reached the world, Ballarat gained an international reputation as a particularly rich goldfield. As a result, a huge influx of immigrants occurred, including many from Ireland and China, gathering in a collection of prospecting shanty towns around the creeks and hills. Within a few months, numerous alluvial runs were established, several deep mining leads began, and the population had swelled to over 1,000 people.The first post office opened on 1 November 1851, the first to open in a Victorian gold-mining settlement. Parts of the district were first surveyed by William Urquhart as early as October 1851. By 1852 his grid plan and wide streets for land sales in the new township of West Ballarat, built upon a plateau of basalt, contrasted markedly with the existing narrow unplanned streets, tents, and gullies of the original East Ballarat settlement. The new town's main streets of the time were named in honour of police commissioners and gold commissioners of the time, with the main street, Sturt Street, named after Evelyn Pitfield Shirley Sturt; Dana Street named after Henry Dana; Lydiard Street after his assistant; Doveton Street after Francis Crossman Doveton, Ballarat's first gold commissioner; Armstrong after David Armstrong; and Mair Street after William Mair. These officials were based at the government encampment (after which nearby Camp Street was named), which was strategically positioned on an escarpment with an optimal view over the district's diggings. The first newspaper, The Banner, published on 11 September 1853, was one of many to be distributed during the gold-rush period. Print media played a large role in the early history of the settlement. Ballarat attracted a sizable number of miners from the Californian 1848 gold rush, and some were known as Ballafornians. Civil disobedience in Ballarat led to an armed civil uprising, the Eureka Rebellion (colloquially referred to as the "Eureka Stockade") which took place in Ballarat on 3 December 1854. The event, in which 22 miners were killed, is considered to be a defining moment in Australian history. The city earned the nickname "The Golden City" in the 1850s. The gold rush population peaked at almost 60,000, mostly male diggers, by 1858. However the early population was largely itinerant. As quickly as the alluvial deposits drew prospectors to Ballarat, the rate of gold extraction fluctuated and, as they were rapidly worked dry, many quickly moved to rush other fields as new findings were announced, particularly Mount Alexander in 1852, Fiery Creek in 1855, and Ararat in 1857. By 1859, a smaller number of permanent settlers numbering around 23,000, many of whom had built personal wealth in gold, established a prosperous economy based around a shift to deep underground gold mining. Confidence of the city's early citizens in the enduring future of their city is evident in the sheer scale of many of the early public buildings, generous public recreational spaces, and opulence of many of its commercial establishments and private housing. A local steam locomotive industry developed from 1854 with the Phoenix Foundry operating until 1906. The railway came to the town with the opening of the Geelong–Ballarat line in 1862 and Ballarat developed as a major railway town. As the city grew the region's original indigenous inhabitants were quickly expelled to the fringe and by 1867 few remained. ## Post gold rush From the late 1860s to the early 20th century, Ballarat made a successful transition from a gold rush town to an industrial-age city. The ramshackle tents and timber buildings gradually made way for permanent buildings, many impressive structures of solid stone and brick mainly built from wealth generated by early mining. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh visited between 9 and 13 December 1867 and as the first royal visit, the occasion was met with great fanfare. The Prince Room was prepared at Craigs Royal Hotel for his stay. The city's first civic centre—Prince Alfred Hall—erected over the Yarrowee between the two municipalities, was named in his honour during his visit. The later attempt by Ballaratian Henry James O'Farrell to assassinate the Prince was met with shock and great horror from locals.Ballarat was proclaimed a city in 1871. Gong Gong dam was built in 1877 to alleviate flooding and to provide a permanent water supply. A direct railway to Melbourne was completed in December 1889. Many industries and workshops had been established as a result of manufacturing and servicing for the deep lead mining industry. ## 20th century Local boosterists at the start of the 20th century adopted the nickname "Athens of Australia", first used to describe Ballarat by the jurist and politician Sir John Madden. The first electricity supply was completed in 1901, and that year a bluestone power station was built at the corner of Ripon Street and Wendouree Parade with the main aim of electrifying the city's tramway network. Despite such advancements, mining activity slowed at this time and Ballarat's growth all but stopped, leading to a decades-long period of decline. The Sunshine rail disaster in 1908 resulted in the death of dozens of Ballarat residents, and in August 1909, a great storm lashed the city, resulting in the death of one person and the injury of seven others, as well as the destruction of numerous homes.Ballarat's significant representation in World War I resulted in heavy human loss. Around this time, it was overtaken in population by the port city of Geelong, further diminishing its provincial status. In response, local lobbyists continually pushed the Victorian government for decentralisation, the greatest success being the Victorian Railways opening the Ballarat North Workshops in April 1917. The Great Depression proved a further setback for Ballarat, with the closure of many institutions and causing the worst unemployment in the city's history, with over a thousand people in the dole queue.While deep, the depression was also brief. The interwar period proved a period of recovery for Ballarat with a number of major infrastructure projects well underway including a new sewerage system. In 1930, Ballarat Airport was established. By 1931, Ballarat's economy and population was recovering strongly with further diversification of industry, although in 1936 Geelong displaced it as the state's second largest city. During World War II an expanded Ballarat airport was the base of the RAAF Wireless Air Gunners' School as well as the base for USAAF Liberator bomber squadrons. In 1942, Ballarat became connected to the state electricity grid by a 66,000 kV line. Prior to this, power supply was generated locally. During World War II, Ballarat was the location of RAAF No.1 Inland Aircraft Fuel Depot (IAFD), completed in 1942 in the defence of Australia against a Japanese invasion and decommissioned on 29 August 1944. Usually consisting of four tanks, 31 fuel depots were built across Australia for the storage and supply of aircraft fuel for the RAAF and the US Army Air Forces at a total cost of £900,000 ($1,800,000).In the post-war era, Ballarat's growth continued. In response to an acute housing shortage, significant suburban expansion occurred. An extensive Housing Commission of Victoria estate was built on the former Ballarat Common (today known as Wendouree West). The estate was originally planned to contain over 750 prefabricated houses. While planning for the estate began in 1949, main construction occurred between 1951 and 1962. The 1950s brought a new optimism to the city. On 17 April 1952 it was announced that Lake Wendouree was to be the venue for rowing events of the 1956 Summer Olympics, and work soon began on an Olympic village in Gillies Street. A new prefabricted power terminal substation at Norman Street Ballarat North was constructed between 1951 and 1953 by the State Electricity Commission. The first Begonia Festival, a highly successful community celebration, was held in 1953. Elizabeth II visited on 8 March 1954. The Civic Centre, Prince Alfred Hall had burned down suspiciously that year; however a new Civic Hall was constructed and opened in March 1955. On 23 November 1956, the Olympic torch was carried through the city, and the following day the rowing events were held at the lake. On 2 March 1958 the Queen Mother visited Ballarat. During the following decades, the city saw increased threats to its heritage. In 1964, the Ballarat City Council passed laws banning pillar-supported verandahs in the CBD, which threatened the removal of historic cast iron verandahs in the city. The by-law was met by staunch opposition from the National Trust, which had begun campaigning to protect some of the city's most historic buildings. By the 1970s, Ballarat began to officially recognise its substantial heritage, and the first heritage controls were recommended to ensure its preservation. With the opening of Sovereign Hill, the city made a rapid shift to become a major cultural tourist destination, visited by thousands each year. During the 1970s, a further 300 houses were constructed at Wendouree West. Private housing in the adjacent suburb of Wendouree closely matched and eventually eclipsed this by the mid-1960s. The suburb of greater Wendouree and Wendouree West had evolved as the suburban middle-class heart of the city. Charles, Prince of Wales visited Ballarat on 28 October 1974 during which he toured Sovereign Hill, the Ballarat College of Advanced Education's new Mt Helen Campus and the White Swan Reservoir and spoke at Civic Hall. ## 21st century The city continued to grow at the national average throughout the late 20th century and early 21st century. In 2008 the City of Ballarat released a plan directing that growth of the city over the next 30 years is to be concentrated to the west of the city centre. The Ballarat West Growth Area Plan was approved by the city and state government in 2010, planning an extensive fringe development consisting of 14,000 new homes and up to 40,000 new residents including new activity centres and employment zones.The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse final report, published on 15 December 2017, found that 139 people made a claim of child sexual abuse to the Diocese of Ballarat between 1980 and 2015, and 21 alleged perpetrators were identified in these claims. Seventeen of the 21 alleged and convicted perpetrators were priests, which is 8.7% of the priests who ministered during this period. About 45 victims are estimated to have committed suicide. # Weather Ballarat has a moderate oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) with four distinct seasons. Its elevation, ranging between 400–630 metres (1,310–2,070 feet) above sea level, causes its mean monthly temperatures to tend to be on average 3 to 5 °C (5 to 9 °F) below those of Melbourne, especially in winter. The mean daily maximum temperature for January is 25.1 °C (77 °F), while the mean minimum is 10.9 °C (52 °F). In July, the mean maximum is 10.0 °C (50 °F); average July minimum is 3.2 °C (38 °F). Ballarat has 55.2 clear days annually. The city has a well known reputation for unpredictable and extreme weather, ranging from snowfall to intense heatwaves. Perhaps the most infamous feature of Ballarat's climate is the chilly winter, often accentuated by driving winds.Temperatures can dip below freezing from May to September, however a low of 0-2 C° is more common - widespread frosts and fog are a regular sight. Snowfall typically falls on nearby Mount Buninyong and Mount Warrenheip a few times a year, but in the urban area only once or twice, particularly during heavy winters. Snow has been known to fall heavily with several inches accumulating even in the CBD. Heavy snow seasons occurred in 1900–1902 and 1905–1907 (with record falls in 1906), and moderate snow seasons were recorded during the 1940s and 1980s. Snowfalls in the urban area have occurred in recent years: November 2006 (light), July 2007 (heavy), June 2008 (light), August 2008 (light), August 2014 (moderate) and June 2016 (light), July 2017 (light), June 2018 (moderate), May 2019 (light), and August and September 2020 (light and heavy).The mean annual rainfall is 693 millimetres (27.3 inches), with August being the wettest month (75 mm or 3.0 in). There are an average of 198 rain-free days per year. Like much of Australia, Ballarat experiences cyclical drought and heavy rainfall. Flooding of the Yarrowee catchment occurs occasionally. In 1869 a serious flood of the Yarrowee River put most of the lower section of business district including Bridge and Grenville streets under water and caused the loss of two lives. Prolonged drought (an average annual rainfall with falls averaging as low as 400 mm (16 in) per year since 2001) caused Lake Wendouree to dry up completely for the first time in its history between 2006 and 2007. More recently higher rainfall levels have been recorded including 95.0 mm (3.74 in) in the 24 hours to 9 am on 14 January 2011, ending a four-day period of flooding rains across much of Victoria and Tasmania, and contributing to the wettest January on record, with a total of 206.0 mm (8.11 in) of rain for the month.The city's mean daily wind run is 470 km, almost twice that of Melbourne, making it one of the windiest cities in Australia. This in turn causes warm summers to feel substantially cooler and near freezing winter days to have a far below zero wind chill.Ballarat's highest maximum recorded temperature was 44.1 °C (111 °F) on 7 February 2009 during the 2009 southeastern Australia heat wave. This was 2.1 °C (3.8 °F) above the previous record of 42.0 °C (108 °F), set on 25 January 2003. The lowest-ever recorded minimum was -6.3 °C (21 °F) at sunrise on 19 July 2015. # Things to do