We Are Ballarat celebrates all of us – the people who define our city – and aims to empower us to work towards the strengthening of Ballarat’s social fabric.
Growing up in Ballarat, We Are Ballarat ambassador Dr Deanne Gilson had all she wanted at her fingertips – paintbrush and palette to boot.
“I’ve never felt the need to leave,” Dr Gilson said.
“It has everything I want as far as housing, great schools, a great arts community and it’s my ancestral home.
As a proud Wadawurrung woman, Ballarat holds a special place in Dr Gilson’s heart, mind and soul.
But it’s not only the fact that Ballarat is her ancestral home which makes it so precious.
“Some words I would use to describe Ballarat are friendly, inclusive, and culturally amazing,” the visual artist and teacher exclaims.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have my friends and family around me. Family and friends are everything.
“Ballarat’s community has very strong values in family, and I think that’s really important.”
While the last year has brought its fair share of challenges, particularly for artists and creatives, Dr Gilson affirms that now is the time to rally together and work towards the city’s recovery – strengthening those elements that make her hometown so prized.
She says the unification of the community is the surest way to get through the months ahead.
“I think one way locals can support Ballarat’s recovery from the pandemic is to get out there, give it a go, go for a walk and just get out and meet people and be part of this community,” Dr Gilson said.
“Invite your friends and family! Ballarat is close to Melbourne and yet we have everything here and it’s affordable.
“It’s a thriving arts and food industry, we have absolutely everything at our feet and we don’t have to pay a fortune.”
As a painter and a creator of three-dimensional installations, much of Dr Gilson’s work tells stories of cultural significance that not only raise awareness about Indigenous stories but which bring her a sense of happiness and fulfilment.
Having been an artist for decades, she recently completed her PhD in Aboriginal Women’s Business and her trade has seen her travel far and wide in promotion of her acclaimed Indigenous art.
But she said no matter where her work takes her, she is always happily beckoned back home.
“When I go away for an event and return home, I just feel so proud to be on my ancestral Country. It has a really, really big impact on my life,” she said.
“As a proud Wadawurrung woman, I’ve been so proud of all the support I’ve been shown in the last few years, not only in my art practice but with my education and cultural work as well on Country.
“The dreams I have for Ballarat in the future is for it to become more thriving and more inclusive of all cultures, which I think we are well on our way there.”
By rallying the community in a spirit of support and togetherness, and with the vision of recovery firm in our minds, we can propel our city forward.