Many factors instigated this move, but amongst them was a desire to expand the size of my garden, and produce even more of my own food, than I was able to within a small dual occupancy, patch of ground in Melbourne.
Whilst leaving behind a garden that I had developed over some 16 years and home that I had gone a long way towards retrofitting for minimal energy consumption, as well as wonderful neighbours and friends, was not easy. I also felt an increasing sense of suffocation and fear I had other dreams I wanted to pursue, beyond my all-consuming career as a secondary teacher.
Family responsibilities saw me spending a good part of my life in Ballarat and I began to build new networks and friendships prior to my move.
One of the biggest bonuses was that Ballarat offered a vibrant community of people committed to sustainable living and community organisations such as BREAZE, Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions group, The Ballarat Permaculture Guild, who offer informative workshops, and permaculture accreditation courses, as well as Permablitzes, essentially working bees, to help members achieve their dreams and goals of producing and growing their own food, community building, minimising waste and more. The Ballarat Community Garden, also host fortnightly produce swaps, between ardent vegie growers. Farmer’s Markets are held on a regular basis at Lake Wendouree, Bridge Mall and Buninyong, where you can meet the growers and producers of the food available for purchase.
Along with those factors went a passion for the rich history of “a city built on gold”, that my forbears had been part of shaping since 1855.
Beside the shores of Lake Wendouree, gazing across at Mt Bunninyong and Mt Warrenheip, I felt a sense of being called “home” by the black swans, swamp hens, musk ducks, blue coots, just a few of the birds that make the lake their home and were amongst my earliest friends.
Then there’s those fantastic Victorian Botanical Gardens, with the extraordinary marble Italianate statuary bequests of Thomas Stoddart and Russel Thompson , not to mention the avenue of busts of Prime Ministers, where, as a teen, I had encouraged my dog to cock his leg against the ones I didn’t like!
I had more respect for the fabulous collection of Australian Impressionist and early colonial paintings held in The Ballarat Fine Art Gallery!
And that Eureka Flag; then at the top of the Art Gallery staircase, reminding Ballarat’s citizens of the significance of social justice and egalitarian values, now at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Eureka Street.
This is my inheritance, as a child of Ballarat, this is an inheritance that belongs to all of us in Australia today.
The number of new networks and friendships I have established over the last two years has been an absolute bonus. I have made links with so many like-minded people and organisations.
Reliable tradespeople are also easier to find and access than in Melbourne, as the city remains small enough, that word of mouth prevails and shonky tradespeople struggle to survive.
Another bonus is that Ballarat is close enough to Melbourne, that maintaining friendship networks has not been a problem and travel to Melbourne’s inner city actually takes less time, than if I was living in Melbourne’s outer Eastern suburbs. Should I find myself missing Melbourne’s rich cultural diversity and accompanying plethora of interesting cuisines, or foreign films and theatre, it takes a mere hour and a quarter to access them.
Then there is the issue of affordability of housing. I could only have dreamed of having an entire third of an acre. Here in Ballarat, my home is sandwiched between two major shopping centres, a park and less than a five minute walk to Lake Wendouree, as well as the Melbourne rail link.
I have been able to live well on a way lower income, than I ever could have managed in Melbourne and am not losing over an hour a day or more, simply commuting to and from work.
Public transport, here in Ballarat is not particularly good, with services ending by 9.00pm, but on the plus side, bicycle access is fabulous around town and should I wish to, I could walk into the city centre in well under an hour.
My quality of life has never been better!