Ballarat's forgotten war orphans remembered with new avenue

A forgotten war memorial for Ballarat’s orphan soliders has finally received the recognition it deserves.

Last year’s chance re-discovery of the Ballarat Orphanage’s Arthur Kenny Avenue in Ballarat East, began a process to have the site fully restored and recognised for future generations.

Opened in 1917 by Governor General Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, the memorial avenue was created to honour more than 100 residents of the orphanage who enlisted to fight World War I.

Of those “old boys”, about 20 never returned.

Over the years, the living memory of the avenue died out and the memorial was all but forgotten.

Yesterday, after months of work by groups including Conservation Volunteers and Child and Family Services, the site was again officially opened.

Ballarat’s Andrew Wallace, whose grandfather dug tunnels beneath enemy lines at Ypres in Belgium during World War I, said the memorial was a great way to honour those from the orphanage who had fought overseas during the Great War.

“From a personal point of view, having my grandfather recognised along with the other men is really important,” he said.

“The people involved have done a fantastic job to make sure that the whole area is now suitably recognised.”

Mr Wallace’s grandfather, Sapper James Wallace, returned to Ballarat where he raised a family.

He said his grandfather received a bullet wound to the hand which restricted his career options later in life.

“It was dangerous work, they worked in very small confined areas and there was lot of gasses underground,” he said.

“He dug mines under the ground to blow up the enemy trenches. A miner from Ballarat - who would have guessed?”

CAFS heritage coordinator Sharon Guy said works to restore the avenue had been planned since April.

“To think they did have an avenue, but it was forgotten about and neglected, is a bit sad really,” she said.