The Town Hall flag was flying at half mast this morning in memory of the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who died yesterday at the age of 89.
Many prominent local politicians also paid tribute to one of Australia's most prominent figures, who was still playing an active part in public life until very recently.
Mr Hawke came to Ballarat several times to help with campaigns and was the prime minister from 1983 to 1991.
John Mildren, who was the federal member for Ballarat from 1980 to 1990, remembered the prime minister as an "extraordinary man".
"Politically, he wasn't a bigot. He was an Australian. He said 'we all need to do our bit'. He wasn't divisive at all. Sometimes prime ministers don't always see it that way. They see it from their own particular ghetto. Well, Bob had no ghetto.
"He was a one-off, he really was a one-off. Bob was a man who changed this country. Others weren't prepared to make the decisions that Bob and [former Prime Minister Paul] Keating made. Without those decisions, this country would be a third world country.John Mildren, former Ballarat MP
"He was Australian and he looked out to the world."
"Everyone knew of Bob Hawke. If you were in any other country - certainly English speaking ones, they would know of Bob Hawke."
"He had this enormous, passionate love, not just of his country, but of the people and you could tell that. Whenever he was with them, he was at home - it didn't matter who they were. He had an enormous capacity to break down barriers."
"He was a one-off, he really was a one-off. Bob was a man who changed this country. Others weren't prepared to make the decisions that Bob and [former Prime Minister Paul] Keating made. Without those decisions, this country would be a third world country."
Mr Mildren also recalled Mr Hawke asking for "a couple of bob making a phone call when he was on the campaign trail in Kyneton. "This is before mobile phones. [I thought] he's going to make some extremely important telephone call. [He said] 'I got to ring my bookie. I got a good tip for the 2 o'clock race'."
Last night Ballarat's MP since 2001 Catherine King tweeted: "It seems inconceivable. Larger than life - we will miss him so. Vale Bob Hawke."
Speaking to The Courier this morning, Ms King said: "It's so hard to sum up a life so richly lived," adding that he had shaped the nation.
She also recalled his "incredible humour", remembering a time he had joined her on the campaign trail in Wendouree village.
"He was mobbed wherever we went... he darted off from the pack we were walking in into a bookstore.
"He saw the Guinness Book of Records standing on a bookshelf. He wanted to look up to see if his beer record still stood. Which of course it did, much to the roar of everyone around him."
She also remembered him stopping at the Labor campaign office in Sturt Street for a cigar.
"He smoked his cigar and he held court. He just had all these young Labor volunteers just in raptures listening to him for a good half hour or so.
Another time, she recalled one of the workers at the SEM Fire and Rescue factory doing a Bob Hawke impression on speakerphone, unaware that the prime minister had already arrived for a tour of the factory. "Bob thought it was absolutely hilarious. He picked up the phone and spoke to him. I think [the worker] got quite a shock."
"He was so popular. Wherever you walked, I've never seen anything like it. I am sure having him here endorsing my campaign certainly helped."
Mr Hawke visited the area during Ms King's first campaign in 2001, when she overturned 11 years of Ballarat being a Liberal seat.
The state member for Buninyong Michaela Settle said he was the first person she ever voted for, and praised his record of standing against racism and apartheid, as well as his courage for publicly confronting his alcoholism.
Juliana Addison, the MP for Wendouree, remembered his "enormous contribution to the labour movement".
Bob Hawke made an enormous contribution to the labour movement, the Labor Party & Australia. I grew up in the 1980s as one of Hawkey’s children, benefiting from the policies that built our economy & social policies that strengthened our nation.#ValeBobHawke— Juliana Addison MP (@juliana_addison) May 16, 2019
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