It was a bitterly cold April night, even by Ballarat standards, in 1979. Members of the Labor Party were gathered in Trades Hall, reflecting on a quarter of a century of electoral failure.
The Liberal Party had held the seat since 1955 and their victory margin in the 1977 poll gave little cause for optimism for a Labor Party faithful planning their next election strategy.
Fast forward 40 years, and the political landscape in Ballarat has shifted almost beyond recognition.
The other way was based on an adversarial way and I couldn't see any point in that. We had lost so oftenJohn Mildren, former member for Ballarat
The incumbent Labor MP Catherine King is about to complete her seventh federal election campaign. If she succeeds once again today, she is likely to become Ballarat's longest ever member, outstripping the two decades served the Liberals' Dudley Erwin.
Perhaps on that chilly evening more than four decades ago, the seeds of change were sown. A local teacher and relatively little known member of the Labor Party, John Mildren, wondered out loud if he should throw his hat into the ring. And so his journey to Parliament House began.
After squeaking through pre-selection, Mr Mildren set about making himself known to an electorate that to most observers seemed to have a blue ribbon almost rusted on.
"I was doing [the campaign] my way," Mr Mildren told The Courier earlier this week. "The other way was based on an adversarial way and I couldn't see any point in that. We had lost so often. We know the formula you use to lose, so you had to create a new formula. "
Actively fostering a relationship with The Courier, which was a firmly Liberal newspaper in that era, as well as the local Channel 6 news channel, he became more familiar to voters. He also travelled as much of the electorate as possible, whatever the residents' political allegiances.
"If we want to be up there with the community, we have to be up there with all of our community, not just our group, because that's ghetto stuff," he said.
"That's wrong. If you were going to be the local representative, you know there's going to be a huge spectrum of opinion.
"Someone who would never vote for you in a fit, it's important they feel they can at least go into your office and be treated with respect."
Against the odds, his methods worked. On October 18, 1980, he was elected to represent Ballarat, a position he held for a whole decade until the Liberals' Michael Ronaldson took his seat.
For Ian Tulloch, a regional politics expert at La Trobe University, "the Hawke factor" in the 1980s had an effect on Mr Mildren's political successes, with many regional areas swinging to Labor.
Mr Mildren, meanwhile, hopes that his time in Canberra had an impact in his home town well beyond his decade as the federal member.
"I would like to think that Frank Sheehan [the state MP for former electorate Ballarat South at the same time] and I, and the way we behaved, softened Ballarat's attitude towards the Labor Party, and made people realise that Frank and I were genuinely there to help the community."
There is a propensity for most of those people to vote Labor or Green rather than Liberals or NatsIan Tulloch, political expert, La Trobe University
He also acknowledged a radical change in Ballarat since he first hit the campaign trail.
"The demographic shifts are enormous," he said, recalling a much more static population in Ballarat back in 1980.
For Mr Tulloch, those changes have created a profound effect on local voting patterns.
"There's been a huge influx of tree-changers - people who might commute to Melbourne or people that have shifted to the Ballarat area," he said.
"There is a propensity for most of those people to vote Labor or Green rather than Liberals or Nats."
Mr Mildren, now 86 and still with a keen eye for local and overseas politics, is acutely aware of how far things have changed since his time in government.
"Ballarat is different from what it was. There was a time when it was the other way around."
"I was never seeking the position [of parliamentary candidate]. If I hadn't thought aloud that night, it might have been very different."
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