Sebastopol residents have welcomed the first concrete projects in a major funding injection to revitalise the suburb.
On Friday, Buninyong MP Michaela Settle, whose electorate includes Sebastopol, announced the first part of a $5million state government grant specifically for the area.
Plans including $1.1million for Yarrowee Trail upgrades, $500,000 for up to 1,300 trees to improve the canopy cover, and $150,000 funding for a "Connecting Sebastopol" initiative designed to create a more active community group. Much of the work will be done by the City of Ballarat.
Ms Settle acknowledged she would have preferred to have launched the projects earlier. The $5 million funding was announced in February 2019, with no further information until now.
However, the detail is likely to be well received in the community following a year that has seen the suburb - one of Ballarat's most historic areas - hit with a series of blows to its services.
In February, the suburb's post office closed down after the licensees decided to move their business to Delacombe Town Centre.
The Commonwealth Bank on Albert Street in the meantime closed in May last year and there is no timeline for it to reopen its doors.
Ron Bedford, who lives on Vale Street and has lived in the suburb since 1961, sits on Spotlight on Sebastopol community reference group that worked out how the grant should be spent.
"It's been good because the community has had most of the input into what projects get looked at and get funded," he told The Courier.
"It's what we want rather than what the bureaucrats want. On the ground we know what's needed locally. We know what goes on in our little part of Ballarat."
Mr Bedford wants the grant to help connect the suburb's shifting demographic more than has happened in recent times.
He hopes this will be addressed with a new newsletter and webpage, also funded by the grant and run out of the Sebastopol-located Ballarat Neighborhood Centre.
"We are trying to get back to a localised newsletter where people can find out easier what's going on," he said.
"No offence to you blokes, but you don't print many stories about Sebas because in the scheme of the whole area they're not newsworthy - but to us locals they are newsworthy.
"We've gone from 10,000 people to [around] 20,000 in Sebas now or within the boundary areas.
"Probably two-thirds of the newer 10,000 never lived here before. So it's contacting them and getting them to understand the history of the place and what things were like and what we're trying to achieve in the future and for them to have their say in it."
Mr Bedford said amalgamation in 1994 - when Sebastopol was folded into a wider City of Ballarat local government area - had an adverse impact on a place he still calls "the borough", a legacy of Sebastopol's former status as a standalone municipality.
"Before we could work into the local town hall and talk to someone over the counter, whereas now we're part of 110,000 people.
"That access has changed a lot over the last 20 or so years since."
It is not a view shared by a former mayor of Sebastopol, Paul Jenkins, who does not believe the suburb was neglected in the years after it lost its municipal status.
"I don't know that Sebastopol was forgotten," he said. At that stage [post amalgamation] there were three councillors representing the wards so they could have as much say as anywhere else."
As the former Liberal member for Ballarat West, it is perhaps unsurprising he expresses a note of cynicism about the funding from the Labor Party.
Despite calling the $5million sum "outstanding", he queried whether the grant had a political motivation.
He did, however, acknowledge the hit to the local services recently - he has been outspoken on the loss of the post office.
But he also says he believes Sebastopol is on an upwards trajectory despite some areas of decline.
"If I look at Sebastopol now, if you go to Albert Street now, the main street - it's not progressing, it's in a dormant situation.
"[But] if you go west, it's unbelievable."
Reflecting on the growth of the suburb, he recalled a time when Tait Street - now lined with new homes - was used as a fire break when he was captain of the fire brigade. He says the centre of gravity is shifting west.
"Overall I would say Sebastopol is expanding extremely well, if you look at the Phoenix College now and what's going on there."
He noted the fortunes and vitality of the area have ebbed and flowed before, citing a major population exodus following the decline of the gold mining industry.
"I think we'll see the revamp of Albert Street, I think it will revive again and it will become a shopping centre again," he said. "Sebastopol is on the move."
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