Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Tourism ‘icon’ Sovereign Hill

Louis, Jayden and Adeline celebrate Chinese New Year in the Chinese village, which is touted for upgrades in Sovereign Hill’s new master plan. Picture: Brendan McCarthy.

Melanie Whelan, Tourism ‘icon’ Sovereign Hill is Ballarat’s big federal election winner, The Courier, 21 May 2019

Sovereign Hill is the sole project winner for Ballarat in the wake of the federal election result.
Then-Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham confirmed a $10 million windfall for Sovereign Hill Museums Association last month to be in this year’s federal budget. Labor matched the funding commitment during the election race, putting the association in a win-win position.

Funding will be delivered under the national tourism icons program. This comes on the eve of Sovereign Hill’s 50-year celebrations with part of the funding to create a detailed master plan for the next 20 years in ensuring visitor numbers continue to grow.

Remaining funding will be used to deliver on upgrades deemed highest priority once the master plan is complete.

Sovereign Hill chief executive officer Sara Quon said concepts already touted for consideration include gold museum upgrades, improvements to education facilities, a Chinese village refresh and new entrance buildings to the outdoor museum. Centres of excellence for rare trades and costumes have also been tabled.

Ms Quon said the master plan would be launched be the end of next year, in line with outdoor museum’s 50th anniversary. Community members will have a chance to voice ideas and feedback during a consultation period.

Sovereign Hill attracted more than 700,000 visitors last year, including thousands of school children. Mr Birmingham, in announcing the funding, reiterated the open-air museum, with its gold rush recreation and costumed characters, was a major tourist drawcard for regional Victoria and an important educational tool.

Ms Quon said the master plan would investigate and detail further government and philanthropic funding options to bring to life its full vision for Sovereign Hill Museums Association, which includes the Gold Museum, Narmbool, educational school programs and on-site accommodation.

Works on high priority projects in what will be the first phase of the master plan would extend past 2021.

Sovereign Hill in late March launched its new sound-and-light show Aura, an $8 million investment, to breath new life into the long-running Blood on the Southern Cross, watched by more than two million visitors in 25 years.

Aura is a multi-sensory show building on its tagline “gold changes everything” to trace the story of gold and its importance to Ballarat, from the creation of the universe – both scientifically and the Dreamtime tales of the Wadawurrung people – to today.

The new production was led by the man who spearheaded White Night and Olympic Games ceremonies.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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