After previous terms serving Ballarat and Victorian Genealogical Societies, Graeme has held the office of president for the past six years. In that time he has overseen major initiatives such as the digitisation of 25 years of Ballarat newspapers by the National Library of Australia for Trove. He has written successful submissions for additional funds and has documented projects meticulously. The current one he is heading is Home Front Ballarat WW1. Other paperwork on which he thrives is his ownership of the process to amend the constitution of the Society in line with government mandates and the judicious liaison with library management to revise the memorandum of understanding with the City of Ballarat.
Graeme's term of office has seen the rapid advance of technology with the redesign of the award-winning BDGS website, an increase in the use of social media and the growth of paid research enquiries which provides the Society with a steady income mainly from e-commerce. Volunteers have continued to produce indexes and the most recent production on USB is an innovative technological development. These electronic publications also generate income from sales. As a not-for-profit organisation with Deductible Grant Recipient (DGR) status the Society benefits from GST exemptions. Wise expenditure on new library computers and new research laptops and related paraphernalia help to improve efficiency and the service we provide to members and non-member family historians.
These initiatives, awards and publications have added kudos to the good name of the Society and have attracted sizeable donations in cash and kind to further our aims. Any volunteer organisation such as ours would have good reason to be very proud of these achievements under Graeme's leadership.
In his address the Rev Robert Gribben treated the AGM audience to a learned explanation of the various forms of Methodism which emerged from the Anglican Church in the 17th and 18th centuries in England and America. On the Ballarat goldfields, among the six or so varieties, it was the Wesleyan Methodists who predominated. This local majority continued to be close to the vision and practice of the founders John Wesley (1703-1791) and his brother Charles Wesley (1707-1788). We heard about the introduction of 'field preaching', hymn-singing and 'love feasts'. So in Ballarat the 'singing church' flourished with high teas and lay preaching. The flat structure of Methodist conferences suited the egalitarian nature of the local goldmining community.
It was most interesting to hear about the strong influence that their mother, Susanna Wesley, exerted upon her sons. She is credited with instilling in them an appreciation of the intellectual and spiritual qualities of women, thus accounting for the equality which women enjoyed in this church. Even teenage girls were licensed to preach and to be fully engaged in higher education and self-improvement programs. The best-known female preacher in the Colonies of Victoria and South Australia was Serena Lake Thorne (1842-1902), a Bible Christian and suffragette, whose sermons drew huge crowds of admirers.
BDGS members were able to enlighten the audience about which former Methodist Churches were still standing in Ballarat. In 1977 the Methodist Church joined with the Presbyterian and Congregational churches to form the Uniting Church in Australia. There was no continuing Methodist church as was the case with the Presbyterians.
In 2009 Charles Zhang and his 17-yr-old son Oscar walked from Robe in South Australia to Ballarat, a distance of 438 km in 14 days. They followed the route of more than 15 000 Chinese goldrush immigrants who chose to come overland to avoid the Victorian £10 poll tax. As described in See Yup Gold Miners In Australia by Henry Gunstone, there were twenty to thirty miles of Chinaman in single file, they were chanting ˜Ballaraat, Ballaraat, Ballaraat " This was their destination and if they became lost at least they had one word of English to set them in the right direction.
BDGS members were treated to a pictorial account of the trying journey through Penola, Dergholm, Casterton, Coleraine, Cavendish, Dunkeld, Willaura, Ararat, Buangor, Beaufort and Burrumbeet to Ballarat. Despite the hardships of summer heat, water rationing, prickles and lugging their camping equipment, the trip was made enjoyable by the goodwill and practical assistance of people in the towns along the way. This was due to the reconnaissance done by Charles in making contact with local historical societies and other groups. Publicity by Voice FM and Facebook helped the townsfolk to join in the walk for part of the way and share stories of the Chinese presence in their area. There were historical plaques, way-marked gum trees, market gardens and shops established by miners who passed that way. In particular at Ararat (Gum San) Chinese miners were well represented among those who worked the alluvial goldmine from 1863-1872. At 20km wide and 70km long this was considered at the time to be the biggest of its kind in the world.
Charles is President of the Chinese Association of Ballarat. He would like to hear from any descendants of the many thousands of Cantonese immigrants who walked from Robe and settled in Ballarat in the 1850s and 1860s. Your message would be forwarded to Charles by emailing