BALLARAT'S renowned Royal South Street Society has been honoured with a prestigious Victoria Day arts award.
The awards were presented during a function at Melbourne Town Hall yesterday as part of Victoria's 152nd birthday celebrations.
South Street board members, volunteers and supporters attended the function to see president Michael Stewart accept the award.
Mr Stewart said he was "humbled and honoured" to accept the award.
"For a voluntary organisation which doesn't receive any government funding to achieve this is, I think, is quite an achievement," he told the gathering.
"We are thrilled that our contribution in continually supporting the arts and young artists has been recognised by the conferring of such a prestigious award. It is public acknowledgement of the success of our annual competitions."
Mr Stewart said the award reflected the hard work of more than 100 volunteers who assist with the competitions, the standard of the adjudicators and the competitors themselves.
The Royal South Street Competitions have been held in Ballarat since 1891, but its origins go back further to 1879, when some local boys established a debating society with its home base in a hall in South St.
Today it attracts some 40,000 competitors during its three-month duration and is run at a cost of more than $400,000 _ all funded by sponsorship, contestant fees and ticket sales.
As Mr Stewart noted in his acceptance speech, South Street does not receive any government funding, but generates an estimated $10 million for Ballarat each year.
Yesterday's award was presented by Victoria's Lieutenant Governor Lady Southey, who said South Street made "a marvellous contribution to the arts" over many years.
Victoria Day marks the anniversary of the state of Victoria's separation from the colony of NSW.
The Victoria Day Awards were first presented in 1995, but this year was only the third year the Victoria Day Council has offered an award for the arts. The previous winners were Ballarat Fine Art Gallery director Margaret Rich (2002) and Melbourne philanthropist Jeanne Pratt (2001).
Among other award recipients yesterday was former footballer Jim Stynes, who the night before was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame.
Mr Stynes now works with young people who are homeless or at risk and was recognised for his public and community service.