Monday, February 26, 2024

Begonia festival embraces First Nations

Victoria’s City of Ballarat Council says it is striving to highlight First Nations voices, work and culture in the upcoming Ballarat Begonia Festival. 

The festival has a full program of presenters, entertainment, food and drink and family activities across the March long weekend.

Last year’s event saw more than 50,000 people attend and Council is anticipating an even bigger turnout this year. 

“As part of goal two of the Council Plan 2021-2025 — a healthy, connected and inclusive community — the City of Ballarat is committed to prioritising reconciliation,” Council said in a statement.

“While there are many other crucial elements to this commitment, providing events and activities that celebrate Ballarat’s diversity forms part of how the City of Ballarat is actioning its commitment to reconciliation.”

It says there will be a range of opportunities for festivalgoers to engage with First Nations culture and work throughout the festival and beyond. 

Wadawurrung Traditional Owner and artist, Billy-Jay O’Toole, has been commissioned to design the ‘Begonia’ letters which will be on display in Sturt Street from today.

The artwork on each letter of ‘Begonia’ represents:  

B — the artwork on the letter ‘B’ symbolises a journey across country and all coming together on Wadawurrung Country attending the Ballarat Begonia Festival.  

E — the ‘E’ represents ‘Wurdi Yuang’ (big hill) — it refers to the Wadawurrung mountain country around Black Hill and Buninyong.  

G — the ‘G’ symbolises the flowing waters that give life to all and nourish country.  

O —the ‘O’ signifies healing and welcoming to country. The eucalyptus depicted welcomes you onto country and cleanses you from the feet up to keep country and people healthy as they come together in peace.  

N — the ‘N’ represents gathering by fresh water.  

I — ‘I’ symbolise the shape and known markings of the stone spear head. Stone head spears were a traditional tool used to hunt food.  

A — the artwork on the letter ‘A’ symbolises the many creeks and waterholes across country.  

Bundjalung man and celebrity chef, Mark Olive, will conduct cooking demonstrations from the Greenhouse Ballarat Stage throughout the Begonia Festival.  

The Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BADAC) will have a Council-sponsored float in the Begonia Parade on Monday 13 March from 11am-12pm. BADAC delivers health, social, welfare and community development programs to local Aboriginal people. 

Councillor Belinda Coates said featuring the work of First Nations people in events like the Festival was a small way Council was prioritising reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.  

“We are working to ensure Indigenous and Torres Strait Island people are able to participate fully in our community,” she said.  

“There is certainly more to do, but we are committed to taking tangible steps to genuinely walk together towards reconciliation.”  

For more information about the Ballarat Begonia Festival, visit the festival website

Latest Articles