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The economy of Ballarat is driven by all three economic sectors , though contemporary Ballarat has emerged as a primarily service economy with its main industry being the service industry and its key areas of business including tourism , hospitality , retail , professional services , government administration and education. Secondary sector including manufacturing , which had grown in the 20th century remains an important sector. The city's historic primary sector roots including mining and agriculture continue to play a role, though one that has declined since the 20th century.
Industries emerging this century include information technology service sector and renewable energy.
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As a major service centre for the populous goldfields region, Ballarat has large sectors of employment in business including retail, professional services and trades as well as state and federal government branch offices for public services and health care and non-government service organisations. Collectively these industries employ more than half of the city's workforce and generate the bulk of the city's economic activity. Ballarat is the main retail economy in the region. The city has several key retail districts including a pedestrian mall known as Bridge Mall comprising over traders.
George Bank and a number of smaller independent financial services firms. Federation University Australia exports education through a large international students program and throughout Australia through distance education programs. In recent years, a large technology park, the Ballarat Technology Park with communications centre has been established, with tenants including IBM and employing over 1, people.
The project involves the development of surplus Crown Land for industrial, wholesale, logistics, construction, commercial and residential uses, encouraging employment growth in Ballarat and the surrounding region. BWEZ will also include a freight hub, secure infrastructure and access to road, rail and ports.
Ballarat attracts 2. A significant heritage tourism industry has not grown substantially in Ballarat since the s. Ballarat is most notable for the award-winning open-air museum known as Sovereign Hill , a recreated s gold mining settlement opened in Sovereign Hill is Ballarat's biggest tourism drawcard and is consistently rated among the best outdoor museums in the world and continues to expand.
Several businesses and attractions have capitalised on Ballarat's gold mining history. They include Kryal Castle , "Gold Rush Mini Golf" featuring the "Big Miner" one of Australia's big things although the original proposal appeared larger and for the miner to hold the Eureka Flag  at Ballarat's eastern entrance. A large number of Ballarat hotels, motels and restaurants service the tourism industry. The Ballarat Tourist Association is an industry based non-profit, membership organisation representing the city's tourism industry. Ballarat honours its rich history by hosting a number of annual festivals with historical and cultural focus including the Ballarat Begonia Festival , Ballarat Heritage Weekend and Ballarat Beat Rockabilly Festival.
According to the Australian Census, manufacturing is Ballarat's third largest employment sector, accounting for Ballarat attracts investment from several international manufacturers. Ballarat also has a large number of home-grown companies producing textiles, general industrial engineering, food products, brick and tiles, building components, prefabricated housing components and automotive components.
Brewing was once a large-scale operation, with many large businesses including the public company Phoenix Brewery, and although large-scale brewing has ceased, the city retains a substantial microbrewery industry. Though historically an important sector, the production of Ballarat's primary sector declined for many decades, recovering only marginally since Ballarat rose to prominence as a goldrush boomtown, though gold no longer plays a pivotal role in the economy of the city.
Nevertheless, deep underground mining continues to the present date with a single main mine operating. There are still thought to be large, undiscovered gold reserves in the Ballarat region, with investigations being made by local and national companies. An active quarrying industry with large enterprises including Boral Limited  extracts and manufactures building materials from the Ballarat region, including clays, aggregates, cements, asphalts.
Approximately half 38, hectares or 94, acres of the municipality's area is rural with optimal conditions for agriculture including rich volcanic soils and climate. Cattle and poultry stocks, including sheep, cows and pigs, support an active local meat and dairy industry. The Ballarat region has a rapidly growing renewable energy industry, in particular due to its abundant wind energy, attracting significant investment and generating revenue for local landholders and local councils.
The region is also a source of bountiful geothermal energy,  solar power  and biomass   although to date, only its wind, solar and hydroelectricity has been harvested commercially. All local commercially produced electricity is sent to the National Electricity Market.
Wind energy is generated by local wind farms. The largest, Waubra Wind Farm , completed in , is capable of producing enough electricity to power a city 3 to 4 times the size of Ballarat.
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Hydroelectricity is generated at White Swan reservoir micro hydro plant established in and producing the equivalent electricity needs of around homes. The Australian national census indicated that the permanent population of the urban area was 78,  out of the City of Ballarat's population of 85,  and a total of 31, households. The population of Ballarat has increased moderately to , in June ,  having an annual growth year-on-year of 1. The average income of Ballarat, while lower than Melbourne, is higher than average for regional Victoria.
Christianity is the most common religion in Ballarat. Catholics The council was created in as an amalgamation of a number of other municipalities in the region. The city is made up of 3 wards , each represented by three councillors elected once every four years by postal voting. The Town Hall and annexe contains some council offices, however the council's administrative headquarters are located at the council owned Phoenix Building and the leased Gordon Buildings on the opposite side of Bath Lane.
In state politics , Ballarat is located in the Legislative Assembly districts of Buninyong and Wendouree , with both of these seats currently held by the Australian Labor Party. Law enforcement is overseen from regional police headquarters at the law complex in Dana Street with a single local police station operating in Buninyong. Due to an increase in crime rates and population, two additional local police stations were proposed in one each for the suburbs of North Ballarat and Sebastopol.
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Offenders can be detained in 25 available cells at the police complex though are commonly transferred to nearby Corrections Victoria facilities such as the Hopkins Correctional Centre in Ararat. Public safety and emergency services are provided by several state funded organisations including local volunteer based organisations.
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Medical emergency and paramedic services are provided through Ambulance Victoria and include the Rural Ambulance Victoria , St. John Ambulance and Ballarat Base Hospital ambulance services. Ballarat has two local newspapers, one owned by Australian Community Media and one a private equity. The latter is distributed across most of the city on Thursday and contains news of community events, advertisements for local businesses, and a classifieds section.
Ballarat was the hub of Australian Community Media's Victoria production and manufacturing with all printed material for the state coming from the Wendouree print site until it closed in September Today Ballarat is serviced by numerous "free to air" High Definition and Standard Definition Digital television services. These two stations broadcast relayed services throughout regional Victoria. Ballarat television maintains a similar schedule to the national television network but maintains local commercials and regional news programming.
On 5 May , analog television transmissions ceased in most areas of regional Victoria and some border regions including Ballarat and surrounding areas. All local free-to-air television services are now broadcasting in digital transmission only. This was done as part of the federal government's plan for digital terrestrial television in Australia , where all analogue transmission systems are gradually turned off and replaced with modern DVB-T transmission systems.
Ballarat has two universities, Federation University and a campus of the Australian Catholic University. It originated as the Ballarat School of Mines, founded in , and was once affiliated with the University of Melbourne. The main campus is located in Mount Helen, approximately 6 kilometres 3. It is ACU's only campus located outside of a capital city. Ballarat has five State Government-operated secondary schools of which Ballarat High School established in is the oldest.
The city is well serviced by Catholic schools, with eight primary schools and three secondary colleges which include the all-boys St Patrick's College ,  the all-girls Loreto College and the co-educational Damascus College , which was formed by the amalgamation of St Martin's in the Pines, St Paul's College and Sacred Heart College in The later two schools are day and boarding schools who provide education from Preschool to Year Both of these co-educational schools are classified as academically excellent as the only Ballarat schools to be ranked on the tables of the top Victorian schools based on median VCE scores and percentage of scores of 40 and above.
The Ballarat Fine Art Gallery houses one of Australia's oldest and most extensive collections of early Australian works. It is considered to have the best Australian collection outside any capital city in Australia. Ballarat is home to many annual festivals and events that attract thousands of visitors. The oldest large annual event is the Ballarat Agricultural Show since , currently held at the Ballarat Showgrounds and has attracted attendances of up to 30, and is an official public holiday for residents of the city. Lake Wendouree is featured in many including the biggest and most prominent is the Begonia Festival held annually since The controversial Ballarat Swap Meet formerly the Super Southern Swap Meet and held annually since attracts 30, visitors a year.
Ballarat has a lively and well established theatrical community with several local ensembles as well as a number of large performing arts venues.
The Ballarat Civic Hall is a large public building constructed in as a general purpose venue. Its stripped classical design was heavily criticised during its planning, however it has gained some cultural significance to the city with its cavernous spaces holding many significant events over the years. Civic Hall was closed in and there have been moves to redevelop it for many years  with some calls to retain the building as a venue.
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Ballarat has its own symphony orchestra, the Ballarat Symphony Orchestra which was formed in The Royal South Street Eisteddfod is an all-encompassing performing arts festival and competition event that is conducted over twelve weeks annually. In the s the Ballarat urban area contained no less than 60 hotels. The introduction of gaming machines in the early s has brought about significant change in the city entertainment precincts.
Gaming machines have brought significant revenue to the remaining hotels, sports and social clubs which has enabled many to expand and modernise. The city has several dance clubs as well as a highly active live music and jazz scene. Hotels are popular meeting places for young people.
The city has many fine restaurants, wine bars and eateries as well as themed restaurants. Dance parties are popular within the Ballarat area; BTR is an organisation founded in that has begun hosting dance events in Ballarat. Ballarat has inspired many visual artists. Eugene von Guerard documented the city's establishment as a gold digging settlement, while Albert Henry Fullwood and Knut Bull depicted the city's boom era streetscapes. Ballarat is also a popular filming location. Australian rules football is the most popular spectator and participation sports in Ballarat. The Ballarat Football League , established in , features six local teams, including the Ballarat Football Club , which was founded in and remains one of the world's oldest football clubs.