Eureka Flag, MADE future in the spotlight

Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh and Cr Mark Harris have addressed the future of the historic Eureka flag.
Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh and Cr Mark Harris have addressed the future of the historic Eureka flag.

The historic Eureka flag has been raised as one option to help revive the fortunes of Ballarat’s troubled democracy museum.

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE) received the flag on loan from the Art Gallery of Ballarat in 2014.

A unanimous vote of the gallery’s board then extended the flag’s loan to the museum until mid-next year.

It followed a council decision to fund the museum for just one more year, while a review into its future in Ballarat was undertaken.

Criticisms of the museum focused on its unwieldy name – the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka – and its failure to put the Eureka stockade at the centre of its story.

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Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh said in a media statement on Tuesday that it was time for the community to think about the future and how to best preserve the story of Eureka.

“(Sunday’s) Eureka Day celebrations have prompted debate about the location of the Eureka flag and around the future of MADE,” she said.

“The Eureka Flag is owned by the Art Gallery of Ballarat and, as such, is an asset of the City of Ballarat.

“While the fragile state of the flag prevents it from being extensively moved, each year people visit MADE just to see this iconic flag first-hand, while they discover and learn more about the significance of the Eureka story.

“As we consider the future of MADE, we are presented with a fantastic opportunity to better capture the passion of all Australians to ensure the story of Eureka is not lost.”

There would be a number of complications to a council decision to display the flag permanently at the museum.

The gallery was given the flag in 1985 by the King family, who had possessed it since the 1800s following the Eureka uprising.

However the gallery has since become property of council, which could potentially remove the board.

Gallery chairman and Ballarat City councillor Mark Harris said it was important to remember the flag was in the stewardship of the gallery, but should remain at MADE as long as the museum’s future was guaranteed.

“We look at the Eureka flag as very much like any other artwork we would hold,” he said.

“We have it on loan at MADE at the moment as a sister institution and we are very satisfied with the relationship.

“If MADE continues on in any form, and we wish them well with that, we imagine that relationship would continue.”

A stronger tie between the museum and the gallery was one of about 16 options presented to councillors at a briefing in early October.

MADE chief executive Rebecca MacFarling said at the time changes to the museum would likely focus on rebranding and marketing the site.

The museum was previously called the Eureka Centre, prior to an $11.1 million makeover.