The Ballarat Avenue of Honour, at 22 kilometres, is the longest Avenue of Honour in Australia and one of the earliest known memorial avenues to have been planted in Victoria. It represents an egalitarian approach to the commemoration of service personnel where service rank was not a consideration.
Ballarat also became home to a unique memorial of national significance when the Governor General officially opened the Garden of the Grieving Mother and unveiled its centre piece statue in 2017.
The Garden of the Grieving Mother is designed to be a space for contemplation and reflection, honouring and acknowledging the grief and anxiety experienced by those ‘at home’; the mothers, fathers, families and friends left behind, waiting for news of loved ones serving in foreign lands in times of war. The bronze, life-size statue at the heart of the Garden of the Grieving Mother is the work of prominent Australian sculptor, Peter Corlett OAM.
The project was assisted by major grants from both the federal and state governments, while the Arch of Victory/Avenue of Honour Committee and the City of Ballarat made substantial contributions. The citizens of Ballarat and the business community also rallied to raise the remaining funds required to complete the project.
In 2018 the Garden of the Grieving Mother was formally handed over to Council and citizens of Ballarat
Location: Adjacent to the Arch of Victory
Directions: Driving up Sturt Street, turn left at the roundabout into Learmonth Street. First right into Beaufort Avenue and right into the service road which runs beside the Garden.
The Ballarat Avenue of Honour journey began in May 1917 when Mrs ‘Tillie’ Thomson, a Director of the local textile company E. Lucas & Co, began implementing the idea that trees should be planted in honour of the brave servicemen and women from Ballarat who enlisted their services in the First Australian Imperial Forces for World War I. This idea was enthusiastically taken up by the employees of the company, and within a month, approximately 500 staff (who became known locally as the ‘Lucas Girls’) began planting the Avenue along the Ballarat-Burrumbeet Road.
The first planting took place on 3 June 1917 and comprised 1,000 trees.
Although the ‘Lucas Girls’ did the actual planting, local farmers helped by delivering wagon loads of tree guards to the site, while fathers and uncles were enlisted to help dig holes for the new trees. Council at the time also provided practical advice to assist with the planting.
Two years later, the final planting took place on 16 August 1919. A total of 3,771 trees now extend over a distance of approximately 22 kilometres along the Ballarat- Burrumbeet Road.
The total cost of the Avenue was approximately £2,000, which was met by the proceeds from various fund raising activities - including Victoria's first women's football match on 28 September 1918 where ‘the Lucas girls’ took on the ‘Khaki Girls’ of the Commonwealth Clothing Factory Melbourne.
Having completed the Avenue of Honour, the ‘Lucas Girls’ then set to work to provide a suitable grand entry – the Arch of Victory – which was officially opened by the Prince of Wales on 3 June 1920. The Arch underwent major restoration works in 2011.
The Ballarat Avenue of Honour is a significant cultural landscape of national importance and has been classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), the Australian Heritage Commission and more recently by Heritage Victoria.
Ballarat saw itself as an exemplar of the global movement originating in the mid 1800s to bring nature into cities in the form of parks, avenues and boulevards. Australians, and in particular Victorians, embraced the idea of planting Avenues of Honour more enthusiastically than any other country in the world. A National Survey of War Memorials in 1920-21 indicates that at least 121 Avenues of Honour were planted throughout Australia in response to World War I - of these 92 were in Victoria, the majority occurring in the Central Highlands Region.
Established amidst much interest and enthusiasm, the Ballarat Avenue of Honour was grand in conception and form, and no other Avenue involved so many people or fundraising activities, cost so much, or consisted of so many trees.
Originally 23 different species of trees were planted along the Ballarat Avenueof Honour. These were mostly the traditional ‘European’ or exotic deciduous species popular at the time, including several different types of Ash, Oak, Maple, Alder, Birch, Lime, Poplar and Elm. Each species was usually planted in blocks of about 50 trees (25 either side), however towards the Weatherboard-end of the Avenue a slight change was made and two different species were used alternately and planted in blocks of around 100 trees. Many of the original species used in the Avenue did not flourish and were soon replaced with mostly Elms and Poplars.