What is democracy? Visit M.A.D.E. to find out

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Over this school holidays, we took a visit to Australia’s newest museum, recently opened here in Ballarat! It used to be known as the Eureka Centre on the site of the historical Eureka Stockade, but the building has now been renovated, with a whole new identity as the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E.) I love their new logo too, with the “M” cleverly joining the five dots of the Southern Cross stars which the Eureka Stockade flag was based on.

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I don’t remember ever visiting the previous centre dedicated to the battle at Eureka, so I can’t comment on the improvements, but I can say that it is now an impressive cultural centre that Ballarat should be proud of. The original building was designed by Cox Architecture, but the recent upgrade has been thanks to Williams Boag Architects. Melbourne’s radio program “The Architects” on 3RRR recently discussed the new building and interviewed the architects, you can listen to the podcast here. The new entry to the building now faces out to the surrounding parklands, which is where the battle took place back in 1854 at the height of the Gold-Rush. It has been described as the ‘birthplace of Australian democracy’.

“M.A.D.E harnesses the energy and emotion behind the Eureka story to inspire ways in which individuals can act to improve their world. It challenges and questions, and provokes debate about our future.” www.made.org

The exhibits at M.A.D.E. are exemplary, focusing not only on the site-specific history, but giving a wider context to the meaning of democracy. The large interactive touch-screens make learning about history fun and engaging. There’s a lot to digest there about the goldminers and their struggles for democracy over 150years ago, but there are also displays to help put it in perspective in our eyes today – questions about equality, people and power, with recognition of some of the world’s most influential and inspiring people who stood up for what they believed in and made a change. I’ll definitely need a few more visits to really explore everything the museum has to offer, and it was too much for one visit with kids in tow. Thankfully entry is free for Ballarat residents so we can revisit regularly.

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It is not only informative and interesting for adults, they’ve done a fabulous job in making it a great place to take children. They’d put on special activities for the school holidays with story-telling and fun activity-sheets to do, but there is also a permanent space to “make your own flag” which you can then display on their wall, and also “question of the day” where you can write your response on a sticky-note. Of course the historical “Eureka Flag” is also now on display here after being at the Ballarat Art Gallery for many years, along with some video footage about its extensive restoration. The size of the flag is impressive, and its quite beautiful to see it in its intimate, dimly lit space. IMG_4029

The museum has a cafe and giftshop, and the site also has extensive parklands with a small lake and an awesome playground! Its my kid’s favourite, and it is suitable for all ages and all abilities, with wheelchair access, and clever sensory play features. IMG_3208

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The museum also regularly hosts events including exhibitions and speakers, so go to their website to see what’s on.

If you haven’t already checked it out, maybe you could plan a visit soon.

Talina x

 

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7 thoughts on “What is democracy? Visit M.A.D.E. to find out

  1. Brigid O'Carroll Walsh

    I love M.A.D.E. The old museum was static. Useful for keeping alive the story but rather boring. Not the case now. I love the social justice displays. In fact, as an old campaigner, they bring tears to my eyes. I hope people take note of the books that have been selected and go away and read them. A good start – of interest to the modern food movements – would be The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle

    I recently attended the marvellous 5 Things event on the Sunday of Refugee Week. The auditorium is a very useful space and we adjourned to refreshments afterwards. A wonderful community event.

    One thing I would wish for relates to the music part in which they have playing an English language version of The Ode to Joy. I once heard on the ABC The Ode to Joy which was sung by a German choir on the Wall as part of a celebratory concert about a week after its fall. This brought tears to my eyes and I get emotional even remembering it. This German language version was sung at a rate of knots that makes English language versions sound pedestrian. I think if M.A.D.E. could track down this version and get performance rights would be wonderful, particularly if there was an interpretative sign explaining why this version is so important.

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    1. talinaedwards Post author

      Thanks for your comments Brigid. It’s interesting to hear your view from someone who knew the old museum there. I loved the virtual bookshelf too, and took note of some books that I wasn’t familiar with so I can follow them up – thanks for the recommendation of The Jungle!
      You should contact M.A.D.E. about Ode to Joy, they may be interested in hearing your thoughts. x

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  2. Pingback: Happy 1st Birthday to our blog! | Talina Edwards Architecture: elemental design

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