Sovereign Hill gets $10 million funding

Sovereign Hill gets $10 million funding

Ballarat's Sovereign Hill will get a $10 million makeover after the federal government released details of a funding package from this year’s budget for Australia’s tourism “icons”. It comes as the Victorian government released new figures showing the state’s overnight tourism numbers were booming, with visitors from within Australia spending almost $15 billion on trips within the state.

On Saturday, federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham will be in Victoria to make the announcement on Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum depicting Ballarat’s gold rush in the 10 years from 1851. Opened in 1970, the tourist attraction turns 50 next year and Mr Birmingham said the new funding would help Sovereign Hill renew its facilities and ensure visitor numbers continued to grow.

He said the tourist attraction brought Australia’s gold-rush era to life through its historical recreation of Ballarat’s main street, and costumed characters. “Sovereign Hill is a major tourism drawcard to regional Victoria with the museum attracting over 760,000 visitors last year,” he said. The opposition will honour the funding commitment for Sovereign Hill’s upgrade if it wins next month’s federal election.

The money the museum will get will be used to redevelop Sovereign Hill’s gold museum, to upgrade the entrance building, improve signage, and enhance the popular “digging area” where visitors can pan for gold.

Thousands of school children visit Sovereign Hill each year, and Mr Birmingham said the funding had been allocated towards upgrading exhibits to make them more educational and interactive.

Sovereign Hill Museums Association chief executive Sara Quon welcomed the funding, saying it would help enhance facilities for visitors ahead of the centre’s 50th anniversary.

News of the funding came as Victoria’s tourism minister, Martin Pakula, released fresh figures showing there were 25.7 million visitors to the state from within Australia last year, the highest figure ever. In 2014, the state had 19.8 million visitors from within Australia.

The $205 million expansion of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre had helped drive some of the visitor growth by increasing the number of large conferences staged in Victoria.

“More people than ever before are travelling to and around Victoria,” Mr Pakula said.

This article was originally published in The Age