Before this building existed, Ballarat was part of the land that the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung people call home. They are the First Peoples and traditional owners of this land. For thousands of years, they have lived and cared for this place and continue to do so today. Interestingly, the name ‘Ballarat’ comes from Wadawurrung language, meaning ‘resting place’. Sheltered in a valley abundant with waterways and animal and plant life, this was a gathering place for people and animals during the winter months.1
While we are talking about the name of this remarkable city, you may notice that the word Ballarat is sometimes spelled with two ‘a’s in it. The spelling of Ballarat has changed over the years, since European arrival.
Archibald Yuille, a Scottish settler, was the first to poach the word ‘Ballarat’ from Wadawurrung language. He named his pastoral run ‘Ballaraat’ with two ‘a’s.
Perhaps it was the lilt of his Scottish accent that led him to place the emphasis on the last part of the word: R-A-A-T. At Christmas time in 1851, Scot Urquhart surveyed the whole area and named it ‘Ballaarat’ on his plan, putting the emphasis on the second half of the word and including a double ‘a’ in the middle: B-A-L-L-A-A-R-A-T.2 Both men were most likely grappling with the challenge of representing the ancient sounds of Wadawurrung language in English.
Residents of the neighbouring Ballarat East, however, favoured spelling Ballarat with only one ‘a’. When Ballarat was declared a city in 1870, it was spelled with a double ‘a’; a spelling that persisted even after the City of Ballarat and Ballarat East amalgamated in 1921. It wasn’t until the Kennett years of 1994, not that long ago, that the new boundaries of the City of Ballarat were created, and the double ‘a’ was dropped from the spelling.