Ballarat time capsule

Home to major historical events
 Adam Blackshaw
Screenshot from NFSA title: 12770

Before Europeans first arrived in the region in 1837, the Ballarat area was home to at least 25 Aboriginal tribes known as the Wathaurong (Wadawurrung) people that formed part of the Kulin Nation of Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal words ‘balla arat’, meaning ‘resting place’ or ‘bent elbow’, were believed to be the origin of the name ‘Ballarat’, used by Scottish settler Archibald Buchanan Yuille.

Ballarat became famous when the first discovery of gold was made public on 2 August 1851. Miners from all over the world descended on the region. Then, on 3 December 1854, Ballarat experienced Australia’s only armed civil uprising as miners protested new licensing laws. The rebellion, known as the Eureka Rebellion, resulted in the deaths of 22 miners and 5 troopers.

Here are a selection of items about Ballarat from the NFSA collection.

Ballarat the Fair by Robert Nicholson, 1929. Broadcast (De Luxe Series) W555. NFSA title: 436378


First footage

In 1901 The Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary, visited Melbourne to open Australia’s first federal parliament. Ensign Sidney Cook, a projectionist for the Salvation Army’s Limelight Department, shot film of their visit, for the Victorian Government. On 13 May the Duke and Duchess visited Ballarat and Cook’s footage is our oldest glimpse of an Australian provincial city.


There have been three feature films dramatising the Eureka Rebellion in Ballarat in 1854: Eureka Stockade (1907), The Loyal Rebel (1915) and Eureka Stockade (1949, US title Massacre Hill), the latter staring Chips Rafferty as Peter Lalor, one of the leaders of the rebellion who later became a politician.


On television, Bryan Brown starred as Lalor in Eureka Stockade (1984) and there was even a musical, Eureka! (2004).

To this day the Eureka Flag is an enduring symbol of freedom, rebellion and anti-authoritarianism.



The Loyal Rebel (1915) and Eureka Stockade (1949) (US title Massacre Hill), two feature films about the Eureka Stockade.



In June 1927 Bert Ive produced the best surviving Ballarat documentary of the silent era. The film presents a modern inland city of post – First World War industry and agriculture, with a nod to the gold rush days and the Eureka Stockade.


This 1931 silent documentary opens with the Arch of Victory spanning the Avenue of Honour, a memorial to those who fought in the First World War. It also features the elaborate stucco exterior of the ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, the Ballarat Botanic Gardens and scenes of people sailing, rowing and otherwise enjoying Lake Wendouree.

Provincial Cities of Australia: Ballarat, Victoria, 1931. Note: this clip is silent. NFSA title: 12770

In March 1938, Ballarat was in the full grip of floral fever. To celebrate 100 years since the first white settler set up camp by Lake Wendouree, millions of natural and artificial flowers decorated streets, buildings and even trams.

The Ballarat Centenary Floral Festival, 1938. Note: this clip is silent. NFSA title:125011

Second World War

This clip shows the Ballarat Patriotic Day Carnival on 11 July 1941 to raise funds for British bombing victims. Mayor Michael Martin and Lt General Edward Smart watch the parade of men of the Australian Imperial Force and RAAF Wireless Air Gunners’ School.

Autumn of a mining town

This film made by The Commonwealth Film Unit in 1972, produced with a sombre musical score and without narration, is an evocative mood piece showing Ballarat as the picture of a quiet, rural town. A far cry from the heady days of the gold rush and armed insurrection.