A RADICAL new plan has the potential to turn Eastern Oval into a Chinese tourist destination – and preserve the ground’s colourful characters and history in the process.
East Point Football Netball Club’s memorial committee has started a detailed concept plan for a museum, which would be housed in a new build at the ground.
This comes as the ground is set to host history this weekend, with the first Women’s Big Bash League clash in Ballarat.
What started as a way to best preserve and share football memorabilia took committee members deeper into an historic journey and gave them the idea in ensuring the sporting tales would remain alive – tapping into the booming Chinese tourism trade that visits Ballarat each year.
The draw card? A proposed statue of well-known Ballarat identity Billy Butterfly, near the scoreboard where he used to watch his beloved Golden Point play football. Butterfly, or William Lung, has Chinese heritage and was found to have played a game for Golden Point in 1901.
Memorial committee member Michael Walsh said the museum was about generating recognition for the people and moments that have made Eastern Oval the prime sporting ground in Ballarat with such a rich history. The Chinese had a big role in this.
Until the White Australia policy was enacted in 1901, there was a strong Chinese population in Golden Point with Australian Rules presence. Regional Chinese communities then disappeared, most absorbed into Melbourne.
Ballarat’s Chinese legacy lived on in the nickname Rice Eaters for Golden Point Football Club, which merged with East Ballarat in 1995 under the East Point Kangaroos banner.
The memorial committee has sourced more than 600 items of Golden Point memorabilia. Once the committee started to look at other tenants – from skittles to hot air ballooning, military displays, tennis and, of course, cricket – Mr Walsh said the committee was quick to look to the bigger picture.
This has been a process already 18 months in planning and is starting to gain traction.
Who was Billy Butterfly, beloved friend to all Ballarat?
BILLY Butterfly loved cheering Golden Point footballers from the same spot on the outer, near the scoreboard, every home game.
East Point’s memorial committee wants to keep his story alive, immortalising Billy Butterfly as a statue in a tilt to the club’s Chinese heritage through Golden Point.
Billy Butterfly, named because he flew butterfly kites, was born William Lung and was of Chinese descent. No-one knew how old Billy Butterfly was when he died in 1961, but he was fondly remembered as everyone’s friend. He was a man adopted by Ballarat after his parents died. The city rallied to buy him clothes when his hut burnt down. For years, he went to the Sisters of Mercy Convent for meals and would bring wood in return.
Everyone knew who he was and, in a tribute in The Courier after his death, one of the sisters said “no-one ever took offence at Billy”.
East Point wants to try and keep it this way, everyone knowing a little of Billy Butterfly’s story, with a statue to headline its plans for an Eastern Oval museum.
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