JUST what do outsiders think of Ballarat?
It’s a given that they probably think about gold and Sovereign Hill, the lake and maybe the historic buildings in Sturt and Lydiard streets.
The city, largely from a tourism perspective, has hitched a ride on our retained sense of history with incredible success but is that how we always want it to be?
That was a question raised following the Committee of Ballarat launch this week of its 2012-13 Action Plan.
The plan identifies six “strategic drivers” – sustainability, business, health, community, education and connectivity – which the committee will drive on behalf of its membership in the short and longer term.
Within these broad focus areas, there are dozens of dot points specifying just how the city can improve and prosper.
There are many very important issues which have been prioritised as part of formulating the Action Plan but the one which sparked the most curious of debates centred around just what is Ballarat’s “brand”.
By putting this point on the agenda, you can certainly draw a conclusion that there are many in the community who believe we need extra tools to sell our city.
According to the Action Plan, the committee plans to “develop a compelling story about Ballarat”.
There would be many Ballarat residents who would say we already have a compelling story to tell but there would be dozens of others who say we’re selling ourselves short.
Why shouldn’t we be telling the world we have possibly regional Australia’s best educational facilities, why don’t we pitch about our connectedness or about our incomparable lifestyle?
Why don’t we brand Ballarat as “Australia’s greatest inland city”?
Would sure annoy Bendigo. Tick.
Or “Ballarat: The Family City”. Would sure create debate. Tick.
Maybe “Ballarat: A Connected Community”. Creates a great futuristic vibe. Tick.
Of course, a brand is much more than a catchphrase and requires a depth of thought and substance which might prove challenging.
Is it possible that we are scared of not living up to the brand because, as a city, we have become shy due to the focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do?
Part of the committee’s plan to better brand Ballarat includes developing a clear position on the way the CBD should look.
Ballarat City Council’s future decision-making on the Civic Hall site – which takes another step today – will play a vital role on this point.
The committee also suggests developing a multi-purpose community and events precinct, presumably at the Eureka Stadium site, as another plank.
If that project gets up, I’m thinking: Ballarat: Fun Capital of the World.
That suggestion might sound silly, but it has a point – surely the suggestion from the committee is that we need to start thinking outside the square about how we talk and think about our city.
And that it doesn’t need to follow the messages we have relied upon in the past.
Instead, we should focus on creating the Ballarat we want to live in and enjoy for the future by taking an innovative and forward-thinking approaches to our city.
That can be our brand.
What do you think?