What is democracy? Visit M.A.D.E. to find out
Over this school holidays, we took a visit to Australia’s newest museum, recently opened here in Ballarat! It used to be known as the Eureka Centre on the site of the historical Eureka Stockade, but the building has now been renovated, with a whole new identity as the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E.) I love their new logo too, with the “M” cleverly joining the five dots of the Southern Cross stars which the Eureka Stockade flag was based on.
I don’t remember ever visiting the previous centre dedicated to the battle at Eureka, so I can’t comment on the improvements, but I can say that it is now an impressive cultural centre that Ballarat should be proud of. The original building was designed by Cox Architecture, but the recent upgrade has been thanks to Williams Boag Architects. Melbourne’s radio program “The Architects” on 3RRR recently discussed the new building and interviewed the architects, you can listen to the podcast here. The new entry to the building now faces out to the surrounding parklands, which is where the battle took place back in 1854 at the height of the Gold-Rush. It has been described as the ‘birthplace of Australian democracy’.
“M.A.D.E harnesses the energy and emotion behind the Eureka story to inspire ways in which individuals can act to improve their world. It challenges and questions, and provokes debate about our future.” www.made.org
The exhibits at M.A.D.E. are exemplary, focusing not only on the site-specific history, but giving a wider context to the meaning of democracy. The large interactive touch-screens make learning about history fun and engaging. There’s a lot to digest there about the goldminers and their struggles for democracy over 150years ago, but there are also displays to help put it in perspective in our eyes today – questions about equality, people and power, with recognition of some of the world’s most influential and inspiring people who stood up for what they believed in and made a change. I’ll definitely need a few more visits to really explore everything the museum has to offer, and it was too much for one visit with kids in tow. Thankfully entry is free for Ballarat residents so we can revisit regularly.
It is not only informative and interesting for adults, they’ve done a fabulous job in making it a great place to take children. They’d put on special activities for the school holidays with story-telling and fun activity-sheets to do, but there is also a permanent space to “make your own flag” which you can then display on their wall, and also “question of the day” where you can write your response on a sticky-note. Of course the historical “Eureka Flag” is also now on display here after being at the Ballarat Art Gallery for many years, along with some video footage about its extensive restoration. The size of the flag is impressive, and its quite beautiful to see it in its intimate, dimly lit space.
The museum has a cafe and giftshop, and the site also has extensive parklands with a small lake and an awesome playground! Its my kid’s favourite, and it is suitable for all ages and all abilities, with wheelchair access, and clever sensory play features.
The museum also regularly hosts events including exhibitions and speakers, so go to their website to see what’s on.
If you haven’t already checked it out, maybe you could plan a visit soon.