Ballarat is a city in the state of Victoria, Australia, approximately 105 kilometres west-north-west of the state capital Melbourne situated on the lower plains of the Great Dividing Range and the Yarrowee River catchment. It is the largest inland centre and third most populous city in the state and the fifth most populated inland city in Australia. The estimated urban area population is close to 100,000 inhabitants. It was named by Scottish settler Archibald Yuille who established the sheep run called Ballaarat in 1837 with the name derived from local Wathaurong Aboriginal words for the area, balla arat, thought to mean "resting place". The present spelling was officially adopted in 1996.
It is one of the most significant Victorian era boomtowns in Australia. Just months after Victoria was granted separation from 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, approximately 20,000 migrants had rushed the district. Unlike many other gold rush boom towns, the Ballarat fields experienced sustained yields.
Ballarat was the site of the Eureka Rebellion, the only armed civil uprising in Australian history, which took place on 3 December 1854 at the Eureka Mining Lead, and the event is 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.
Other nationally significant heritage structures include the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, established 1857, the best example of a regional botanic gardens in Australia with the greatest concentration of public statuary including the official Prime Ministers Avenue; the longest running lyric theatre building, Her Majesty's, established 1875; the first municipal observatory, established 1886; and the earliest and longest memorial avenue, the Avenue of Honour, established between 1917 and 1919. Several Australian mining innovations were made at the Ballarat diggings including the first use of a Chilean mill in 1851 and the first use of a safety cage in 1861.
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—a significant tourist destination. Ballarat is known for its history, culture and its well preserved Victorian era heritage.
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