The following timeline forms part of ‘Hidden Histories: The Wadawurrung People’, a digital tour about gold rush Ballarat which brings to life the perspectives and participation of Aboriginal People.
Click here to explore the website, which was produced by the Sovereign Hill Museums Association.
60,000 years ago
According to Dreamtime legend, 60,000 years ago, Bunjil soared over Wadawurrung Country, shaping the landscape and creating all the people and animals.
A wedge-tail eagle creator being, Bunjil made the laws for people to live by, before becoming a star to live forever alongside the stars of his two black swan wives.
20,000 – 10,000 years ago
Dreamtime legend says long ago, two warriors – Bonan Youang and Terrinalum – fought.
As a result, both were mortally wounded and returned to their campsites to rest.
However, they remained so angry that they spat fire at each other until they both died and turned to stone, creating two mountains – Mt Buninyong (in Ballarat) and Mt Elephant (in Derrinallum).
The jagged holes in the sides of both mountains are the wounds these warring volcanos suffered during the mythical battle.
For thousands of generations, the Wadawurrung People have lived in the Ballarat-Geelong region.
Wadawurrung Country provided all of the food, clothing and shelter the people needed, and their lives were rich in culture and ritual.
They typically lived in family groups and, by following the laws of Bunjil and other creator ancestors, they took great care of their country to make sure it would always look after them.
In 1835, John Batman signed a treaty with Melbourne’s Wurundjeri People to purchase their land for sheep grazing.
Following this, other British pastoralists (known as ‘squatters’) moved into what is now the state of Victoria.
The fertile western plains of Victoria were rapidly occupied by these squatters and their sheep.
Sheep numbers rose rapidly and, by 1851, Victoria had five million sheep.
The introduction of these animals drastically changed the landscape, destroying the traditional food sources of the Aboriginal People.
Within six months of the discovery of gold, 10,000 miners were working the Ballarat diggings.
These new arrivals had walked from the ports of Melbourne or Geelong and settled close to the gold deposits.
It was an exciting time and fortunes were made which helped build our modern city.
However, the impact of the gold rush, on top of the devastation caused by the grazing of sheep, completely destroyed the natural environment essential for the traditional lifestyle of the Wadawurrung People.
By 1854, following countless licence hunts, a failed petition to Governor Hotham over expensive gold licences, and an unjust murder acquittal, the miners of Ballarat took a stand and erected a crude stockade.
Alarmed, the government sent a detachment of soldiers.
At dawn on 3 December, the Eureka Stockade was stormed, around 30 people died and our democracy was born.
Some oral histories suggest Wadawurrung People sheltered women and children who fled to Mt Warrenheip during the fighting.
By the 1870s, the Industrial Revolution had well and truly arrived in Ballarat.
Poppet heads, mullock heaps of mining waste and smoke stacks dominated the skyline.
Steam was needed to power the huge underground quartz mines: it drove the pumps, lifted the cages and ran the batteries which crushed the quartz.
Ballarat’s foundries were established to make many of these mining machines but they soon diversified and began making trains and farm machinery, thereby creating our modern industrial city.
Now our city is a quiet, leafy place to live, and is host to thousands of tourists each year.
It is home to many descendants of the Wadawurrung People, the squatters, the gold miners and the foundry workers who all share a common history.
Main image: Deanne Gilson’s Murrup Laarr Ancestral Stones at Lake Wendouree