Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Lake Wendouree Museum, Ballarat (Vic), Monday, 28 September 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

Download PDFDownload PDF







It is a great pleasure for Helen and me to be here with you in Ballarat this afternoon for the official opening of the Lake Wendouree Museum for the Golden City Paddle Steamer Society.

Despite having been bom in Victoria this is my first visit to the Golden City. I have, however, wanted to come here for a very long time. In part, because of the role of Ballarat in our nation’s history. And in part because of my own family’s background.

My great grandfather came to the Ballarat gold fields in the early 1850s, shortly after coming to Australia in 1851 - the year gold was first discovered here - as an assisted migrant from Tipperary. He had a degree of success as a gold miner and used the proceeds of that success to take up land near Nagambie where my grandfather and father were raised as children and which is still worked by one of my cousins.

This is our second official opening ceremony in Ballarat today. This morning I opened the Australian Transplant Games, at which people who have received organ or tissue transplants together with their supporters and members of donor families, meet in a spirit of friendly competition and celebration: celebration of courage by the recipients who have triumphed over great adversity, and also of compassion by the donors and their families who have made that triumph possible. A celebration of a shared continuum of


That sense of the continuity of human affairs and of a shared past, present and future - is also very much part of this occasion, the opening of the Lake Wendouree Museum in the restored Gill’s boatshed. This is also a celebration of the remarkable dedication and hard work over more than a decade of members and supporters of the Golden City Paddle Steamer Museum Society. They have restored the 113-year-old Golden City paddle steamer and returned it to its place as the last survivor of the fleet of pleasure craft which sailed Lake Wendouree in the second half of the 19th century. With the assistance of the City Council, the Society has also restored Gill’s Boatshed as a permanent home for the Golden City and as a Museum of the rich sporting and recreational

life associated with the Lake over the years.


As the photographs and exhibits remind us, the story is more than just paddle steamers. It also includes yachting, rowing, angling, the development of the Botanic Gardens, the Sea Scouts, penny arcades, the maze and so on. All those things which made Lake Wendouree so important to the people of Ballarat and district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are to be depicted in the Museum. But like all good museums it is not just a celebration of the past. As with the men, women and children participating in the

Transplant Games, it also celebrates the joy and beauty of the present and looks to the years ahead.

Changing patterns of recreation and entertainment saw a decline in the public use of the Lake - as in so much else - during the middle years of the century. But with the growth of tourism in recent decades, and a renewed appreciation of communal traditions, the Lake is returning to what it once was.

I mentioned, just now, the rediscovery of tradition. The growing acceptance by Australians of the value of their heritage and the necessity for its protection and conservation by groups of citizens and government at all levels, has been one of the more encouraging developments in recent times. Not all that long ago, anything old seemed to run the risk of the discard heap and redevelopment in the rush to be modem. Fortunately we are now becoming more mature. Thanks to the development of organisations and institutions such as the National Tmst of Australia and the rapidly growing numbers of local and regional museums, individuals and communities are realising the importance of preserving the best of our past ... of protecting those places, buildings and objects of historical significance. And this is not simply in order to raise monuments to the dead or to satisfy the curious - though I don’t deny the significance of either of those motives. But more importantly, I believe a mature society realises that without an understanding of its past, it cannot make properly informed decisions about its future. We cannot really hope to know where we are going, unless we know where we have come from. Thus the relevance of the museum movement; and this is as tme for large institutions that help us to

interpret and understand the great matters that shaped the Australian character and experience, such as the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, as it is for smaller regional museums that hold the mirror of history to the people of the communities they serve.

Here in Ballarat you are fortunate not only in the richness of your history, but in the number of institutions that reflect it ... among them the Gold Museum at the Sovereign Hill Historical Park, the Eureka Centre, the original Southern Cross flag at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, the Montrose miners cottage, and so on. To this number we can now add the Lake Wendouree Museum. It is a Museum that takes us back to the days long before European settlement when the Lake was a favourite camping place of the Kulin Aboriginal people. In fact, as most of you know, the name “Wendouree” is said to be an Aboriginal word meaning “clear out” or “go away” - believed to have been uttered to the

first European settler, William Yuille, when he asked the name of what was then a swamp.

The Museum traces the story of the Lake over the past century and a half - during the gold mining period, in later years when manufacturing industry was developing in Ballarat, as a source of the local water supply and subsequently as a social and recreational centre for boating, fishing, picnics, excursions to the Botanic Gardens and, of course, on the paddle steamers that plied around the Lake. The years have brought their changes, but

as I said a little earlier Lake Wendouree is once again becoming a focus for the communal life of the people of Ballarat and visitors to your city.


I warmly congratulate the Golden City Paddle Steamer Museum Society, its members and supporters, the City Council, the Ballarat Apex Club and the many other individuals and organisations who have given so generously of their time, their expertise and their items for exhibition. You have done a wonderful job in restoring Gill’s Boatshed as a museum not only to the past but to the living present of this beautiful area. I thank you all for giving Helen and me the opportunity to be associated with its opening on this our first visit to your city.

And now, with great pleasure, I declare the Lake Wendouree Museum to be officially open.