BE History 1

Ballarat map

Presentation by Edith Fry – local historian

Ballarat East has been ravaged before.

Buninyong and Clunes may lay claim to have started the goldrush in this area but Ballarat East is where the lid really blew off the whole gold rush thing. And Ballarat East paid a big price which is ironic when you consider the riches that came out of this area.

The environment suffered with trees cut down, creeks diverted, holes dug and the whole place just generally turned over. There were mullock heaps left or “sands” as they called them, that made life entirely miserable when the wind blew and picked up the fine sand. There were sludge dams that made life entirely dangerous when it rained. There was arsenic in the ground (still is) and there were open mine holes and there were other sneaky mine holes that opened up suddenly (still do).

It took years and years for the East to recover from this treatment. Great areas of the East were just vacant waste land.  It was the 1950s when mullock heaps began to be cleared, and were used to build the White Swan reservoir wall.  It was the 1980s when waste land began to be converted to parks, such as at Lake Esmond, and the LINCS project did such wonderful work reclaiming the creeks – what valuable linear parks these are now.

The East suffered in other ways. Much of the population left when the gold rush ended. Ballarat East once had its own Town Council, but this body was hamstrung with a small population, and limited rate revenue, so that development was not achievable.  After the amalgamation of the two municipal bodies in the 20s, times were hard, land was cheap, it was a time of improvisation and getting by. The vast blocks of the East supported large vege patches, chook sheds, stables, horses, even cows.  Many blocks simply weren’t developed, or the old houses fell down or were removed, leaving open spaces in streets.  Other blocks were left empty, for reasons such as being too low, too near a creek, an old mine dump site.

Ballarat East, with it’s creeks and rolling landscape, and hemmed by forest, did not provide the green fields potential of Ballarat West such as that at Wendouree, or the Delacombe area, so that a lot of the 1960s development passed it by, both residential and industrial.

In the East we know it is not so, knowing full well that less is more, but to the rest of the world, Ballarat East has seemed a bit forgotten, a poor cousin, a sleepy hollow.   Until lately.

In Ballarat East a new rush is on. A land rush.

Will Ballarat East have to pay a price for this too? Where is the money going this time?

The history and heritage of Ballarat East have left a legacy across the landscape. This legacy has entered the spirit of the people of Ballarat East – else, why are we here today? We might invoke Eureka, but there really is no need. There is a spirit here, of strength, of rising to challenge. Maybe it’s an underdog spirit too, but rebellious when pushed.  It’s a get-knocked-down-get-straight-back-up-again spirit.   In the past, the people of the East were bound by very strong ties, family, work, religion, survival.

Ballarat East has had a hard life, but it is proud.

Lately, people who have stood up to protest what is happening in Ballarat East, have been told they are backward looking. Ballarat East has no need to return to the past, indeed, who would want the past Ballarat East has known?  Ballarat East is looking to the future, and demands respect, and a better consideration. Ballarat East does have land for potential development, but it must be managed for more than the bottom line, not just grabbed.

Because Ballarat East refuses to be stripped of the riches it holds today.