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Ballarat panorama from black hill.jpg
Morning Flight (12581075443).jpg Ballarat botanical Garden.jpg
Ballarat Town Hall 2011 004.JPG Ballarat Her Majesty's Theatre 001.JPG
Postoffice lydiard ballarat.jpg Victory Arch Ballarat - panoramio.jpg
From top left to bottom right: Panorama of Ballarat from Black Hill, rowers on Lake Wendouree, Ballarat Botanical Gardens, the Ballarat Town Hall, Her Majesty's Theatre, Lydiard Street and former Post Office and the Arch of Victory and Avenue of Honour
Population 99,841 (2015) (17th)
 • Density 290.57/km2 (752.6/sq mi)
Established 1838
Postcode(s) 3350
Elevation 435 m (1,427 ft) AHD
Area 343.6 km2 (132.7 sq mi)(2011 census – urban area)
Time zone AEST (UTC+10)
 • Summer (DST) AEDT (UTC+11)
LGA(s) City of Ballarat
State electorate(s)
  • Buninyong
  • Ripon
  • Wendouree
Federal Division(s) Ballarat
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
17.4 °C
63 °F
7.1 °C
45 °F
689.4 mm
27.1 in

Ballarat is a city located on the Yarrowee River in the Grampians region of Victoria, Australia. The city is approximately 105 kilometres (65 mi) west-north-west of the state capital, Melbourne, with a population of some 99,841. It is the third largest population for an inland city in Australia. Locals are known as 'Ballaratians'.

Ballarat is arguably the most significant Victorian era gold rush boomtowns in Australia. Just months after Victoria was granted separation from the state of New South Wales, the Victorian gold rush transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station to a major settlement. Gold was discovered at Poverty Point on 18 August 1851, and news quickly spread of rich alluvial fields where gold could easily be extracted. Within months, migrants from across the world had rushed to the district in search of gold. Unlike many other gold boom towns, the Ballarat fields experienced sustained high gold yields for many decades, which can be evidenced to this day in the city's rich architecture.

The Eureka Rebellion began in Ballarat, and the only armed rebellion in Australian history, the Battle of Eureka Stockade, took place on 3 December 1854. In response to the event the first male suffrage in Australia was instituted and as such Eureka is interpreted by some as the origin of democracy in Australia. The gold rush and boom gave birth to many other significant cultural legacies. The rebellion's symbol, the Eureka Flag, has become a national symbol and is held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat. Other nationally significant heritage structures include the Ballarat Botanical Gardens (established 1857), with the greatest concentration of public statuary, the official Prime Ministers Avenue, the longest running lyric theatre building (Her Majesty's Theatre, established 1875), the first municipal observatory, established 1886, and the earliest and longest war memorial avenue (the Avenue of Honour, established between 1917 and 1919).

Proclaimed a city in 1871, its prosperity continued until late in the 19th century, after which its importance relative to both Melbourne and Geelong rapidly faded with the slowing of gold extraction. It has endured as a major regional centre hosting the rowing and kayaking events from the 1956 Summer Olympics. It is the commercial capital of the Central Highlands and the largest city in the Goldfields region of Victoria, as well a significant tourist destination. Ballarat is known for its history, culture and its well-preserved Victorian era heritage, with much of the city subject to heritage overlays. After a narrow popular vote the city merged with the town of Ballarat East in 1921, ending a long standing rivalry.


Prehistory and European settlement

Prior to the European settlement of Australia, the Ballarat region was populated by the Wathaurong people, an Indigenous Australian people. The Boro gundidj tribe's territory was based along the Yarrowee River.

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 (40 km2) 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" which it is thought he 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". The present spelling was officially adopted by the City of Ballarat in 1996.

1850s: Gold rush

Ballarat 1853-54 von guerard
Ballarat's tent city in the summer of 1853–1854 oil painting from an original sketch by Eugene von Guerard.

The first publicised discovery of gold in the region was by Thomas Hiscock on 2 August 1851 in the Buninyong region to the south. The find brought other prospectors to the area and on 19 August 1851 John Dunlop and James Regan struck gold at Poverty Point with a few ounces. Within days of the announcement of Dunlop and Regan's find 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 Australian gold rushes 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. In just a few months numerous alluvial runs were established, several deep mining leads began, and the population had swelled to over 1,000 people.

Ballarat 29, 30 July 1853
Pencil drawing of goldfields camp at Ballarat

The first Post Office opened on 1 November 1851. It was the first Victorian post office to open in a 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.

Eureka stockade battle
Battle of the Eureka Stockade. J. B. Henderson (1854) Watercolour

Civil disobedience in Ballarat led to Australia's only 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.

Victorian city

Sturt and lydiard streets in 1899
The intersection of Lydiard and Sturt Street in about 1905 was the heart of a bustling city of trams, horses and pedestrians.

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 of the Prince's assassination by Ballaratian Henry James O'Farrell was met with shock and great horror from locals.

Ballarat was proclaimed a city in 1871. Gong Gong reservoir 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.

Local boosterists at the start of the 20th century adopted the nickname "Athens of Australia", first used to describe the city by the prestigious Irish-Australian jurist and politician of the early 20th century Sir John Madden.

On 13 May 1901, the Duke of York (later George V) and his wife, Mary the Duchess of York, travelled by train from Melbourne to Ballarat.

The first electricity supply was completed in 1901 by the Electric Supply Company of Victoria. A bluestone power station was built at the corner of Ripon Street and Wendouree Parade in 1901 with the main aim of providing the power required for electrification of the city's tramway network.

Declining fortunes

Ballarat North Workshops
Development of the Ballarat North Workshops was a major initiative to capitalise on the city's burgeoning role as a railway town and transition from a declining gold mining industry

Following the start of the 20th century, however, mining activity slowed and Ballarat's growth all but stopped—the city went into a period of decline and saw a reversal of the fortunes acquired in the previous century.

The Sunshine rail disaster in 1908 resulted in the death of dozens of Ballarat residents. On 19 August 1909, a great storm lashed the city, resulting in the death of one person and injury of seven others. During the storm, a tornado swept across the city's northern and eastern suburbs destroying numerous homes in Ballarat North, Soldiers Hill, Black Hill and Ballarat East, lifting and then again touching down at Eureka where it destroyed more homes before dissipating.

One bright spot in this period was the establishment of Osrey Pottery in 1922 by the artist Gladys Reynell, one of Australia's first potters, and her husband, George Samuel Osborne. The pottery closed in 1926 when Osborne developed lead poisoning.

Ballarat's significant representation during WWI resulted in heavy human loss. The city eventually lost first provincial status to Geelong. 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.

The city's two municipalities, Ballarat East and West Town Councils, finally amalgamated in 1921 to form the City of Ballarat.

Since the 20th century

View from St. Peter's Anglican Church, Ballarat
View of central Ballarat from St Peter's Anglican Church

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.

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.

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.

Military history

During World War 2, Ballarat was the location of RAAF No.1 Inland Aircraft Fuel Depot (IAFD), completed in 1942 and closed on 29 August 1944. Usually consisting of 4 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).


Mount Warrenheip Victoria
Ballarat's skyline hidden from this view of the city looking east across Lake Wendouree to Mount Warrenheip.

Ballarat lies at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Central Western Victoria. Also known as the Central Highlands, it is named so because of its gentle hills and lack of any significant mountains that are more common in the eastern sections of the Great Dividing Range. The city lies within a mostly gently undulating section of the midland plains which stretch from Creswick in the north, to Rokewood in the south, and from Lal Lal in the south-east to Pittong in the west.

Geologically, the area consists of alluvial sediment and volcanic flows originating from now-extinct volcanoes such as nearby Buninyong and Warrenheip, which are the area's tallest peaks. As a result, the basin contains large areas of fertile agricultural soil. Ballarat itself is situated on an alluvial basin of the Yarrowee catchment and its tributary creeks, penetrated by sub-ranges of schists composed of granites and quartz. Along with the visible river and creeks, the catchment basin has numerous active and inactive aquifers and natural wetlands, which are used for urban water supply, agriculture and recreation.

There are numerous densely forested areas around Ballarat; however due to historic wood milling and land clearing there remain no old-growth forests. The major natural bodies of water are in the west and include the former shallow swamps of Lake Wendouree which is central to the city's western suburbs and beyond Winter's Swamp and the large Lake Burrumbeet wetland complex. Almost all of the other numerous bodies of water have been created artificially and include several reservoirs, the largest being the White Swan Reservoir and smaller suburban lakes such as Lake Esmond.

The contiguous urban area of Ballarat covers approximately 90 km2 (35 sq mi) of the local government area's 740 km2 (286 sq mi). Approximately 90% of the urban area's land use is residential and suburban. From the city centre this area extends approximately 6 kilometres (4 miles) north to the hills around Invermay, approximately 7.5 km (4.7 mi) east to Leigh Creek in the foothills of Mount Warrenheip, approximately 7 km (4 mi) west along the plains to Lucas and approximately 8.5 km (5.3 mi) south along the Yarrowee River and Canadian Creek valley to the fringe of Buninyong. The central city is situated low in the valley of the Yarrowee River and surrounded by hills such that the city skyline is visible only from the hills and the lower lying inner eastern suburbs. The reach of the Yarrowee River toward Ballarat Central becomes a stormwater drain and is completely covered over as it flows under the CBD.

City and suburbs

Australia Victoria Ballarat City location map
Map of the urban area (grey) and the extent of the municipal area
Ballarat from the Black Hill Lookout
View of Ballarat Central and surrounding areas from the Black Hill lookout.
Looking south over Sturt Street and the CBD toward Bridge Mall from the Town Hall clock tower
See also: Ballarat Central

Ballarat is a primarily low-rise city though apart from the area around Ballarat Airport there are few established height limits for buildings. The City of Ballarat defines two Major Activity Centres within the urban area – the Central Business District (CBD) and Wendouree with a high concentration of business, retail and community function based primarily on the Melbourne 2030 planning model and a further 11 neighbourhood activity centres. The tallest building in urban Ballarat is the seven-storey Henry Bolte wing of the Ballarat Base Hospital (1994). Beyond the central area, urban Ballarat extends into several suburban areas with a mixture of housing styles. Predominant styles are 19th-century villas, Victorian terraces, Federation homes and Georgian red brick homes. Settlement patterns around Ballarat consist of small villages and country towns, some with less than a few thousand people.

The Central Business District (located in Ballarat Central) is a large mixed-use office and retail district bounded to the north by railway lines, to the west by Drummond Street, to the south to Grant street and to the east by Princes Street and spanning the floodplain of the Yarrowee River. Lydiard, Sturt Streets, Armstrong, Doveton, Dana Street and Bridge Street (known as Bridge Mall) along with the historic centre of East Ballarat—Main Street and Bakery Hill have retained stands of commercial and civic buildings of state and national heritage significance.

The inner established suburbs were initially laid out around the key mining areas and include Ballarat East, Bakery Hill, Golden Point, Soldiers Hill, Black Hill, Brown Hill, Eureka, Canadian, Mount Pleasant, Redan, Sebastopol and Newington.

The post gold rush era has seen a boom in expansion, extending the conurbation north, south and west. To the west, Ballarat has expanded West to Lucas, Alfredton, Delacombe To The North West Wendouree , Wendouree West and Miners Rest To the north it has expanded to Ballarat North, Invermay Park, Invermay, Victoria Invermay and Nerrina; to the east to Warrenheip and south to Sebastopol, Mount Clear and Mount Helen with the urban area encroaching the large town of Buninyong.

Wendouree is currently the only major suburban activity centre with a large indoor shopping mall—Stockland Shopping Centre (expanded in 2007) and also has a number of surrounding retail parks including a strip shopping centre along Howitt Street including the large retail chain Harvey Norman. Elsewhere are small suburban hubs with supermarkets such as IGA (supermarkets) and small stretches of shopfronts.

Unlike Melbourne, Ballarat does not have a defined urban growth boundary. This has put continuing pressure on the city council to approve development applications for subdivisions outside of the city fringe. In response to lobbying by landholders, the Ballarat West Growth Area Plan, a major greenfield land development plan, was prepared and has approved by the city and state government to allow for planned fringe communities consisting of 14,000 new homes and up to 40,000 new residents, effectively doubling the city's urban area by extending the urban sprawl from Sebastopol, Delacombe and Alfredton west toward Bonshaw, Smythes Creek and Cardigan with a new suburb to be known as Lucas to be created. New activity centres are to be developed at Delacombe and Alfredton.


Sturt street snow scene 1905
Snow scene in Sturt Gardens in 1905

Ballarat has a moderate oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) with four seasons. Its elevation, at 435 metres (1,427 feet) above sea level, causes its mean monthly temperatures to tend to be on average 3 to 4 °C (5.4 to 7.2 °F) below those of Melbourne.. Ballarat has 55.2 clear days annually.

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 causing 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.

Light snowfall typically falls on nearby Mount Buninyong and Mount Warrenheip at least once a year but in the urban area only during heavy winters. Widespread frosts and fog are more common during the cooler months. Snow has been known to fall heavily. 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. Recent snowfalls to have occurred within the urban area were in 2006, 2008, 2014 and 2016, with falls in November 2006 (light, also the latest snowfall on record), July 2007 (heavy), June 2008 (light), August 2008 (light), August 2014 (moderate) and June 2016 (light).

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.

Climate data for Ballarat (Ballarat Aerodrome 1908-2016)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 42.0
Average high °C (°F) 25.1
Average low °C (°F) 10.9
Record low °C (°F) 0.7
Precipitation mm (inches) 39.4
Humidity 42 44 48 57 69 76 75 70 63 59 54 47 59
Avg. rainy days 7.7 7.2 9.5 12.5 16.2 17.9 19.9 19.5 16.7 15.4 12.7 10.9 166.1


The 2006 Australian national census indicated that the permanent population of the urban area was 78,221 out of the City of Ballarat's population of 85,196 and a total of 31,960 households.

Ballarat has witnessed a significant growth surge since 2006 and the population of the City of Ballarat is becoming increasingly urban such that statistically, the LGA is now used as the ABS statistical division. Recent rapid growth has been attributed by demographers to increased commuter activity arising from surging house and land prices in Melbourne coupled with transport upgrades between Ballarat and Melbourne. Since 2006 Ballarat has averaged an annual population growth of 1700 and in June 2008 the estimated resident population of the City of Ballarat was 91,787. In August 2009 this population had grown to 94,000.

While most of the city's population can trace their ethnic roots to Anglo-Celtic descent, 8.2% of the population are born overseas. Of them, the majority (4.2%) come from North East Europe. 3.4% speak a language other than English. 14.4% of the population is over the age of 65. The median age in Ballarat is 35.8 years.

The average income of Ballarat, while lower than Melbourne, is higher than average for regional Victoria. Ballaratians in the 2007/08 financial year earned on average A$38,850 a year. The highest earners living in the city's inner suburbs with a mean of $53,174 a year, while the lower earners are centred on the city's southern suburbs. According to the 2006 Census, Ballarat's working population is largely white collar 52.1% consisting of Management, Professionals, Clerical and Administrative Workers and Sales Workers, while 32.9% are blue collar working in Technicians and Trades, Labouring or Machinery Operation. 56.5% of households had access to the Internet in 2006. The unemployment rate as of June 2011 was 7.8%.

Ballarat St Peters Anglican Church
St Peters Anglican Church, which represents the second most common religious affiliation in Ballarat.

50.3% of the population have completed further education after high school.


Christianity remains the dominant religion in Ballarat, with over 65% of residents claiming Christian affiliation, slightly above the national average of 64%. According to the 2006 Census, Catholics (27.1%), Anglicans (15.0%), Uniting Church (11.2%) and Presbyterians (4.0%) remain the largest Christian denominations in Ballarat.

Over 21.6% of Ballarat residents claim no religious affiliation. Minority religious groups include Buddhism, Judaism, Baha'i and Islam and total less than 5% of the population.

Arts and culture


Ballarat railway station
The Ballarat railway station is notable for being one of only three surviving nineteenth-century station buildings in Australia to retain a train hall

Ballarat is renowned for its cultural heritage and decorative arts, especially applied to the built environment, combined with the gold rush, this has created a picturesque urban landscape. In 2003 Ballarat was the first of two Australian cities to be registered as a member of the International League of Historical Cities and in 2006 hosted the 10th World League of Historical Cities Congress.

Restoration of historic buildings is encouraged including a low interest council Heritage Loans Scheme. and the prevention of demolition by neglect discouraged by council policies. Since the 1970s, the local council has become increasingly aware of the economic and social value of heritage preservation. This is in stark contrast to the 1950s and 60s when Ballarat followed Melbourne in encouraging the removal of Victorian buildings, verandahs in particular. Recent restoration projects funded by the Ballarat include the reconstruction of significant cast iron lace verandahs including the Mining Exchange, Art Gallery (2007), Mechanics institute (2005–) on Lydiard Street and in 2010 the restoration of the Town Hall and the long neglected Unicorn Hotel façade on Sturt Street.

Ballarat Citizens for Thoughtful Development formed in 1998 and was incorporated as Ballarat Heritage Watch in 2005 to ensure that the city's architectural heritage is given due consideration in the planning process.

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens (established in 1858) are recognised as the finest example of a regional botanical gardens in Australia and are home to many heritage listed exotic tree species and feature a modern glasshouse and horticultural centre and the Prime Ministers Avenue which features bronze busts of every past Australian Prime Minister.

Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial 001
Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial

Ballarat is notable for its very wide boulevards. The main street is Sturt Street and is considered among one of the finest main avenues in Australia with over 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) of central gardens known as the Sturt Street Gardens featuring bandstands, fountains, statues, monuments, memorials and lampposts. Ballarat is home to the largest of a collection of several Avenues of Honour in Victoria. The 15-kilometre-long (9.3-mile) Ballarat Avenue of Honour consists of a total of approximately 4,000 trees, mostly deciduous which in many parts arch completely over the road. Each tree has a bronze plaque dedicated to a soldier from the Ballarat region who enlisted during World War I. The Avenue of Honour and the Arch of Victory are on the Victorian Heritage Register and are seen by approximately 20,000 visitors each year.

The city also has the greatest concentration of public statuary in any Australian city with many parks and streets featuring sculptures and statues dating from the 1860s to the present. Some of the other notable memorials located in the Sturt Street Gardens in the middle of Ballarat's main boulevard include a bandstand situated in the heart of the city that was funded and built by the City of Ballarat Band in 1913 as a tribute to the bandsmen of the RMS Titanic, a fountain dedicated to the early explorers Burke and Wills, and those dedicated to monarchs and those who have played pivotal roles in the development of the city and its rich social fabric.

Ballarat has an extensive array of significant war memorials, the most recent of which is the Australian Ex Prisoner of War Memorial. The most prominent memorial in the city is the Ballarat Victory Arch that spans the old Western Highway on the Western approaches of the city. The archway serves as the focal point for the Avenue of Honour. Other significant individual monuments located along Sturt Street include those dedicated to the Boer War (1899–1901), the World War II (1939–1945) cenotaph, and Vietnam (1962–1972) (located adjacent to the Arch of Victory).

Commercial and civic buildings

Ballarat fine art gallery
Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Lydiard Street North

The legacy of the wealth generated during Ballarat's gold boom is still visible in a large number of fine stone buildings in and around the city, especially in the Lydiard Street area. This precinct contains some of Victoria's finest examples of Victorian era buildings, many of which are on the Victorian Heritage Register or classified by the National Trust of Australia.

Notable civic buildings include the Town Hall (1870–72), the former Post Office (1864), the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (1887), the Mechanics' Institute (1860, 1869), the Queen Victoria Wards of the Ballarat Base Hospital (1890s) and the Ballarat railway station (1862, 1877, 1888).

Other historic buildings include the Provincial Hotel (1909), Reid's Coffee Palace (1886), Craig's Royal Hotel (1862–1890) and Her Majesty's Theatre (1875), the oldest intact and operating lyric theatre in Australia and Ballarat Fire Station (1864, 1911) one of Victoria's oldest fire fighting structures and the Jewish synagogue (1861) the oldest surviving synagogue on the Australian mainland.


The Ballarat Fine Art Gallery houses one of Australia's oldest and most extensive collections of early Australian works. It is considered to have the best Australian collection outside any capital city in Australia.

Federation University Australia operates the Post Office Gallery in the Wardell designed former Post Office on the corner of Sturt and Lydiard Streets.

Events and festivals

Ballarat is home to many annual festivals and events that attract thousands of visitors. The oldest large annual event is the Ballarat Agricultural Show (since 1859), currently held at the Ballarat Showgrounds and has attracted attendances of up to 30,000 and is an official public holiday for residents of the city.

Lake Wendouree is featured in many including the biggest and most prominent is the Begonia Festival (held annually since 1953). SpringFest (held annually since 2001) attracts more than 15,000 people from around Victoria and features market stalls and activities around the lake.

Beggs avenue ballarat showgrounds from ferris wheel during ballarat show
Annual Agricultural Society Show at Ballarat Showgrounds, Wendouree

The controversial Ballarat Swap Meet (formerly the Super Southern Swap Meet and held annually since 1989) attracts 30,000 visitors a year. Ballarat Heritage Weekend (held annually since 2006) celebrates the city's heritage with activities such as historic vehicles and displays in and around the CBD and has attracted as many as 14,500 visitors a year from around Victoria. The Ballarat Beer Festival at the City Oval (since 2012) has attracted more than 4,000 visitors. The Ballarat Airport Open Day (Ballarat's unofficial air show, held annually since 2009) also attracts thousands.

Other minor cultural festivals include the Ballarat Writers Festival, Ballarat International Foto Biennialle and the Goldfields Music Festival.


Her majestys ballarat
Her Majesty's Theatre façade (1875), Lydiard Street Sth.

Ballarat has a lively and well established theatrical community with several local ensembles as well as a number of large performing arts venues. Major performing arts venues include:

  • Her Majesty's Theatre – Seating 940
  • Post Office Box Theatre (Federation University Australia Arts Academy, Camp Street Campus) – Flexible Seating up to 100
  • Helen Macpherson Smith Performing Arts Theatre (Federation University Australia, Arts Academy Camp Street Campus) – Seating 200
  • The 1870 Founders Theatre (Federation University Australia, Mount Helen Campus) – Seating 600
  • The Courthouse Theatre (Federation University Australia, SMB Campus) – Seating 140
  • The Victoria Theatre (Sovereign Hill) – Seating 300
  • Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts (Ballarat Grammar School) – Seating 900
  • Gay E. Gough Theatre (Mount Clear Secondary College) – Seating 350
  • Mechanics Institute hall (seating 700) is used from time to time for travelling performances and cinema shows.

The Ballarat Civic Hall is a large public building constructed in 1958 as a general purpose venue. Its stripped classical design was heavily criticised during its planning, however it has gained some cultural significance to the city with its cavernous spaces holding many significant events over the years. Civic Hall was closed in 2002 and there have been moves to redevelop it for many years with some calls to retain the building as a venue.

Ballarat has its own symphony orchestra, the Ballarat Symphony Orchestra which was formed in 1987. Some notable theatre organisations in Ballarat include BLOC (Ballarat Light Opera Company) founded in 1959. Ballarat is also the home to Australia's oldest and largest annual performing arts eisteddfod. The Royal South Street Eisteddfod is an all-encompassing performing arts festival and competition event that is conducted over twelve weeks annually.

Craigs hotel
The modest 1853 Bath's Hotel grew to become the grand Craig's Royal Hotel in anticipation of the royal visit of Prince Alfred. The current buildings date to 1890.

In the 1970s the Ballarat urban area contained no less than 60 hotels. The introduction of gaming machines in the early 1990s has brought about significant change in the city entertainment precincts. By 2006 at least 20 hotels had closed and some of those that remain have been redeveloped as dining and/or gaming venues. Gaming machines have brought significant revenue to the remaining hotels, sports and social clubs which has enabled many to expand and modernise. The city has several dance clubs as well as a highly active live music and jazz scene. Hotels are popular meeting places for young people. The city has many fine restaurants, wine bars and eateries as well as themed restaurants. A large cinema complex consisting of several theatres is located behind the façade of the old Regent cinemas in the heart of the city. Dance parties are popular within the Ballarat area; BTR is an organisation founded in 2006 that has begun hosting dance events in Ballarat.

Music and live entertainment

Ballarat has produced many bands and music acts that have gone on to succeed in the Australian music industry. Notable acts include The Mavis's, Epicure and The Dead Salesmen. More recently, former Ballarat High School students Hunting Grounds (formerly known as Howl) won the national Triple J Unearthed competition. Yacht Club DJs, formed in 2008, have been a festival favourite for many years, selling out national tours and releasing two CDs. Another recent success story is Gold Fields, who have enjoyed high rotation on Triple J.

Many of these acts had their first gig at the Bridge Mall Inn.

Sport and recreation

AFL pre-season match Eureka Stadium 2
AFL pre-season match. Western Bulldogs vs Melbourne. Eureka Stadium, Wendouree.

Ballarat has a number of large parks, sport fields, organised sporting clubs and associations. Australian rules football and cricket are the most popular spectator and participation sports in Ballarat, while soccer, basketball, netball, horse racing and rowing have large followings. There are stadiums, both indoor and outdoor as well as training facilities for most sports.

Australian rules football is played at semi-professional and amateur levels with a large number of players at numerous venues, both dedicated such as Eureka Stadium and shared with cricket. The North Ballarat Roosters based out of Eureka Stadium compete in the Victorian Football League. The Western Bulldogs AFL Club will commence playing periodic home games at the redevloped Eureka Stadium from 2017. The Ballarat Football League (founded 1893) is a strong regional league of which there are 6 local teams (Ballarat, EastPoint, Redan, Sebastopol, Lake Wendouree and North Ballarat City). The Ballarat Football Club (founded 1860) remains one of the oldest football clubs in the world. Other city teams from Buninyong and North Ballarat compete in the regional Central Highlands Football League.

Cricket is also played extensively with three international standard cricket ovals. Ballarat's Eastern Oval hosted a game in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. Horse racing and greyhound racing are popular, with dedicated facilities. The Harness Racing centre is considered to be among the best in Australia. The Ballarat Turf Club schedules around 28 race meetings a year including the Ballarat Cup meeting in mid-November. Ballarat Harness Racing Club conducts regular meetings at its racetrack in the city.

The Ballarat Greyhound Racing Club holds regular meetings at Sebastopol.

Basketball is played at various levels with the Ballarat Miners and Ballarat Lady Miners who competing in the South East Australian Basketball League and playing out of the aging WIN Minerdome opened in 1970. The venue was upgraded to host basketball games for the 2006 Commonwealth Games however is planned to be replaced by the new Ballarat Sports and Events Centre that will become a Basketball and Netball hub. Netball is similarly popular, with many netball clubs affiliated with local Australian rules clubs including Wendouree, East Point, Eureka, North Ballarat, Redan, Brown Hill and the Ballarat Netball Association. Rowing and kayaking is centred on Lake Wendouree and the sport is particularly popular with the high schools. The lake hosts the Victorian Schools Rowing Championships as well as the annual "Head of the Lake" rowing regatta—contested by Ballarat High School, Ballarat and Clarendon College, Ballarat Grammar School, St Patrick's College and Loreto College. The city hosted rowing events for the 1956 Olympic Games.

Association Football (known locally as soccer) is mostly played at an amateur level. The local competition is known as the Ballarat & District Soccer Association, which consists of 13 teams. The Ballarat Red Devils are the biggest soccer club in Ballarat and play in the FFV National Premier League Victoria 1 West. Their home ground is Morshead Park Stadium, located in central Ballarat, which was recently significantly redeveloped.

Athletics facilities include an international standard athletics track at Llanberris Reserve on York Street Golden Point which is an Athletics Victoria venue and home to local athletics and little athletics clubs. Swimming and water sport is facilitated at two Olympic-sized pools as well as an indoor 25-metre (82-foot) competition short course pool. The main facility is the Ballarat Aquatic Centre located at Gillies Street Lake Gardens in the city's west. Baseball was first organised in Australia at Ballarat in 1857. The Alfredton Eagles, Ballarat City Brewers and Mounties YC field teams in the Geelong Baseball Association Winter Division.

Golf is played at four main venues which include the Ballarat Golf Course on Sturt Street in the Easter suburb of Alfredton, home to the Ballarat Golf Club; the Midlands Golf Course on Heinz Lane in the northern suburb of Invermay Park which is home to the Midlands Golf Club; the Eureka Golf Course at Elford Street in the eastern suburb of Ballarat East and in the southern suburb of Buninyong at the Buninyong Golf Course.

The Ballarat Roller Derby League was formed in 2008, and held their first match in 2009. They have two teams who compete in local events, and a combined travelling team, the Rat Pack, who compete in interleague roller derby competitions. Lake Wendouree is a large recreational lake that was created out of former wetlands and hosted the rowing events for the 1956 Summer Olympics. Victoria Park is an expansive reserve with tree-lined avenues and sporting fields in suburban Newington. The suburbs feature some privately run wildlife parks including Ballarat Wildlife Park in Ballarat East and Ballarat Bird World in Buninyong.

Popular culture

Ballarat has inspired many visual artists. Eugene von Guerard documented the city's establishment as a gold digging settlement, while Albert Henry Fullwood and Knut Bull depicted the city's boom era streetscapes. Ballarat features prominently in literature and fiction, including "The Boscombe Valley Mystery", a short story from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1891); King Billy of Ballarat and Other Stories (1892) by Morley Roberts; The Fortunes of Richard Mahony (1917) by Henry Handel Richardson; Murder on the Ballarat Train (1993) by Kerry Greenwood; and Illywhacker (1985) by Peter Carey.

Ballarat is also a popular filming location. Australia's second oldest feature film, Eureka Stockade (1907), is the first in a line of films about the historic Ballarat event. The city makes cameos in Dogs in Space (1986), My Brother Jack (2001), Ned Kelly (2003) and The Writer (2005). The television series The Doctor Blake Mysteries (2012–) is set in Ballarat and also mostly shot there.

Two ships of the Royal Australian Navy have been named HMAS Ballarat after the city, HMAS Ballarat (J184) and HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155).

Notable persons

See also: List of people from Ballarat and List of Mayors of Ballarat
Alfred Deakin Ballarat
Bust of Alfred Deakin, first federal member for Ballaarat at the Prime Ministers Avenue.

A great many notable people's origins are in the Ballarat region, with the most prominent being high-ranking politicians and sportspeople.

Several former prime ministers of Australia were either born in or lived in Ballarat, and this was recognised by the city's Prime Minister's Avenue. Alfred Deakin, the second prime minister, was the first federal parliament MP for Ballarat. Sir Robert Menzies, and James Scullin were both educated in Ballarat. John Curtin was born in nearby Creswick and his wife Elsie was born in Ballarat. Several premiers of the Australian states were born in Ballarat, including Ballarat born Sir Henry Bolte, Steve Bracks, Thomas Hollway, and Henry Daglish. Additionally Duncan Gillies lived in and represented Ballarat in the Victorian Legislative Assembly before becoming state premier.

An additional political activist included Francis William Hyet is trade unionist and born in Ballarat. He was heavily inclined towards socialism which became a calling for his way of life. He became involved with the Social Democratic Party in 1905 and following the Victorian Socialist Party in 1906. Hyett was a very prominent in the anti-conscription campaign. He was able to harness the union's newspaper which became a medium for the anti-conscriptionists.

Outside politics other prominent public figures include Peter Lalor, a notable historical figure in Australia as the leader of the Eureka Rebellion (1854) and a parliamentarian; the inventor George Alfred Julius, who spent part of his childhood there when his father was a local Anglican cleric; the inventor Henry Sutton was born and worked in Ballarat; and Cardinal George Pell, the former Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney was born in Ballarat and worked in the area for some time.

Ballarat has also produced many notable athletes including the Olympic long distance runner Steve Moneghetti and four time Olympic basketball player Ray Borner. A large number of notable Australian rules football identities have come from Ballarat, including Australian Football Hall of Fame members Tony Lockett and Bob Davis.

In addition, Henry Sutton was an inventor from Ballarat. Sutton designed an electric continuous current dynamo with a practical ring armature. This design could be used as an electric motor and the rapid incline of the electrical industry followed. Sutton was involved in devising and constructing different telephone designs. Sutton interacted closely with Bell (the inventor of the telephone), Bell came to visit Sutton in order to see a complete telephone system that was set up in Sutton's family warehouse.

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