Ballarat is one of the most significant Victorian era boomtowns in Australia. Gold was discovered in 1851, and the area of Ballarat was later found to be a rich alluvial field where gold could easily be extracted. News of the finds intensified the Victorian gold rush bringing over 10,000 migrants to the city from around the world within a year, transforming it from a station to a major settlement in the newly proclaimed Colony of Victoria.
Ballarat was the site of the Eureka Rebellion, the only armed civil uprising in Australian history, which took place on 3 December 1854, and an event controversially identified with the birth of democracy in Australia. Many significant Australian cultural icons are also a legacy of Ballarat’s gold rush boom. The rebellion’s symbol, the Eureka flag has become a national symbol and is held at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Australia’s oldest and largest regional gallery.
Ballarat is another town with magnificent architecture built as a direct legacy of it’s goldrush days. We visited the city’s spectacular ‘Arch of Victory‘ and Avenue of Honour. The idea for the Ballarat Avenue of Honour in 1917 was attributed to Mrs W.D. (Tilly) Thompson, a director of a local clothing manufacturer, E. Lucas & Co. Between June 1917 and August 1919, a tree was planted for each soldier who enlisted as a resident of the urban area of Ballarat. The trees were planted in order of the soldiers enlistment, and stretched some 22km along the Western Highway, consisting of almost 4000 trees.
Just down the road is Lake Wendouree and the commemoration site of the Olympic games of 1956, when Ballarat hosted the rowing and sailing events during the games.
Our final stop of the day was the fascinating Old Cemetery which is the final resting place of many of Ballarat’s pioneers, as well as European and Chinese settlers from the 1850’s gold rush days.