When, in 1838, a squatter called William Yuille camped on the shores of the Black Swamp, now known as Lake Wendouree, He had no idea Ballarat would become Victoria's largest inland city. The name Ballarat is derived from "Balla" & "Arat" which means resting or camping place.
In 1851 by John Dunlop and James Regan who found a few ounces of Gold at Poverty Point while panning in the 'Canadian Creek'. By the following year there was apparently around 20,000 diggers searching in the shafts of the Ballarat Goldfields. This population explosion, caused Ballarat to be proclaimed a town in 1852. By 1855, Ballarat was a full municipality, a borough by 1863 and a city in 1870.
Due to gold being found throughout Victoria, by the early 1850's, the Government in Melbourne had set up a system of Gold Licences. This allowed miners to search for gold on a specified piece of land. The Licence fee had to be paid regardless whether a miner found gold or not. If found without a licence, the digger was forced to pay a fine of £10 or be chained to a log until the fine was paid. The diggers became frustrated over the frequency and corrupt manner of how the Goldfields Police went about their Licence checks. With a shortage of manpower, many of the police were ex-convicts, and the Government gave them the power to undertake checks, and many, because of their background went about their duty in an excessively ruthless manner. The diggers had no say as they had no representation in Parliament.
With the lack of co-operation from the miners, by 1854 the Police had ordered twice weekly licence checks . This caused even more resentment around the goldfields, and on October 7 1854, James Scobie was murdered at Bentley's Eureka Hotel. On October 12, after a riot by miners, Bentley's Hotel was burned to the ground in protest of Bentley's acquittal of murdering James Scobie. Three miners were arrested and sent to prison. A retrial followed later and Bentley and two others were found guilty of the manslaughter of James Scobie also sent to prison. On November 11, the Ballarat Reform League was formed with the view of abolishing licences and having the miners released.
Due to the lack of response to these demands and the set up a stockade on the Eureka Lead, led by Peter Lalor, on the 2rd December 1854, the miners burned their licences. The miners went into battle after Government soldiers unexpectedly stormed the stockade early the following morning morning. The battle lasted for around fifteen minutes and in that time up to thirty miners and six Government troopers were killed. One hundred and fourteen miners were taken prisoner.
But within six months, legislation had been passed to give miners a fairer deal. The monthly Gold Tax was abolished and miners were given the right to vote. Installed was a miners right costing £2 per year later reduced to £1. People could now see the injustice of the whole situation. All miners arrested after the rebellion and those sentenced for the burning of Bentley's Eureka Hotel were released. Peter Lalor, who had been in hiding since the uprising came out of hiding. He became the first member for Ballarat West to be represented in the Legislative Assembly and later became Speaker of the House.
The year 1858 saw the second largest gold nugget ever found in Australia, the "Welcome Stranger nugget". It was found at Bakery Hill, Ballarat.
By the 1860's, the prospect of finding gold in Ballarat East had nearly diminished. By this time, many of the alluvial mines in that area had declined and companies were formed to start much deeper mining in the West and South of Ballarat. For the establishment of these mines, much heavier equipment was needed with Foundries such as the Phoenix Foundry being established to cope with this demand. By now, the town was supported by industries such as flour mills and agriculture related companies.
When the rail came through in 1862, it opened many more opportunities such as shops and markets, trades like blacksmiths had been established many years earlier to expand both towards Melbourne and the Wimmera. When the last mine closed in 1918, Ballarat had enough industry and service bases to support it for many years to come.
Ballarat today is a major industry city with well known companies such as Mars Confectionery, McCains Foods, Selkirk Bricks, Bendix Mintex, and Timken. Some of the area's primary industries include, gold, clay, potatoes, wool and meat.
Ballarat is easily accessible by road, being a hour and a half drive from Melbourne, rail and has a small airport. It has a strong service and tourism base with attractions like Sovereign Hill, Eureka Stockade, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Montrose Cottage all allowing the visitor to experience what it was like back in the gold days of the 1850's.