Originally published June 16, 2019
Last updated June 16, 2019


A guided walking tour of Ballarat's queer history during the gold rush era (1850-1900), presented as part of Ballarat Heritage Weekend by Alex Bayley and Tom Hodgson.

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Our tour covered the Gold Rush era (1850-1900), telling stories mostly from Ballarat and surrounding towns. The first version of this was presented by Tom Hodgson (from Tales From Rat City) at Ballarat Frolic Festival in 2018. In 2019 I collaborated with Tom to develop a “version 2.0” of the tour, bringing in additional research and locations for the tour. This version was presented as part of Ballarat Heritage Weekend, May 25th-26th, 2019.

Starting outside Ballarat Town Hall, the route and topics covered included:

  1. Queen Victoria statue – introduction, origins of colonial attitudes to homosexuality, 19th century laws against sodomy, homosexuality among convicts
  2. Sturt Street – offices of the Ballarat Star and Ballarat Courier during the gold rush period, newspaper reports of sodomy cases and scandals, use of Trove for research, considerations of bias in what is reported.
  3. Gold memorial, cnr Albert and Sturt Streets – demographics of the gold rush population, gender imbalances, women’s roles, Edward De Lacy Evans, Jac Jorgensen, homosexuality among Chinese immigrants.
  4. Mechanics Institute – Political context, reform movement, progressive attitudes to gender and sexuality in the 19th century.
  5. Craig’s Royal Hotel – Class issues wrt sodomy prosecutions, story of James Eyre, extortion case on Talbot Street.
  6. Her Majesty’s Theatre – queer culture and crossdressing in the theatre, Boulton and Park.
  7. Old Ballarat Gaol – Jeremy Bentham, panopticon, design of prisons to prevent queer activity, Captain Moonlite.

We hope in future to provide a print and/or audio version to allow self-guided tours.

Alex Bayley is a tech industry refugee, independent researcher, writer, educator and community builder. They live in Ballarat, west of Melbourne, Australia.