Co-patrons inspect MADE at Eureka

FORMER Ballarat parliamentarian Rob Knowles has been announced as the new co-patron of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka.

Mr Knowles joins ex-premier Steve Bracks as the $11 million centre’s patrons.

MADE chairman Professor David Battersby said Mr Bracks and Mr Knowles, who are both originally from Ballarat, were two of the strongest advocates for keeping the Eureka story alive.

“We owe a great deal of gratitude for their perseverance and commitment in securing the funding for MADE from three tiers of government,” Professor Battersby said.

Mr Bracks said he recognised the importance of appointing a joint patron from the coalition to ensure continuing bipartisanship of Eureka and MADE.

“Rob and I are united in supporting all future endeavours to ensure that Eureka receives the ongoing recognition it deserves, as not only a seminal event in Australia’s history, but also as the foundation of our democratic values and our Australian way of life,” Mr Bracks said.

Mr Knowles said he was a member of the committee, which included the late Peter Tobin, that organised the first Eureka celebrations in the late 1970s and advocated for the funding for the original Eureka Centre.

“A lack of interest had allowed the whole issue to be hijacked,” Mr Knowles said.

“I was quite humbled and delighted when Steve rang and asked me if I would be co-patron.”

Both men toured the centre yesterday, describing it as fantastic.

“It’s utilised the space much more,” Mr Knowles said.

“It’s a much more user-friendly space.”

Mr Bracks said he had seen some plans but was still stunned by the transformation.

“It’s much more interactive and more participatory,” he said.

“It’s also much more open to the precinct it is in. It’s more welcoming.”

They also both said the centre had the capacity to spread the Eureka message far and wide.

“People want to know about our history and they can come here and find it out,” Mr Bracks said.

MADE is expected to open in May and will include high-end technical interactive exhibits, two formal education spaces, a 120-seat theatre, a cafe, gift shop, an outdoor precinct and a purpose-built display gallery for the 158-year-old Eureka flag.

However, Mr Bracks said he would also be in favour of the flag travelling to other areas of Australia to help further spread the Eureka message, though it would be a decision for Ballarat City Council and the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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