The creation of a diocese: Faith, Gold, and the early pioneer priests in western Victoria

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The formation of the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat on March 30, 1874, and the installation of Bishop Michael O’Connor on May 17, 1874 as first Bishop of Ballarat arose, from the humblest of beginnings.

From the early 1830s, immigration was instrumental in bringing thousands of catholic migrants to Port Phillip Bay. Over the following decades, many settled to western Victoria in search of gold and to start a new life.

To support the catholic population, priests from Ireland and other parts of the world were encouraged to migrate for the Melbourne mission.

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of this diocese, this small display highlights the lives of some of these pioneer priests including Fr. Smyth who assisted Peter Lalor during the Eureka Stockade.

The display further examines the first bishops who worked and travelled in Ballarat and western Victoria between 1850-1874.

Where: Catholic Diocese of Ballarat archives

When: 19th Feb – 6th Dec 2024.

Days open: Tuesday – Thursday

Time: 10am -2pm.

Bookings are essential. Please book via [] (max 10 per tour)

Content: Catholic Diocese of Ballarat

Accessibility Information

  • Provides general access facilities and services for people with access needs.

  • 13 Jul–5 Dec


Catholic Diocese of Ballarat Archives

5 Lyons Street South, Ballarat Central VIC 3350

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Accessibility Information

  • Provides general access facilities and services for people with access needs.

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Across Victoria’s Midwest, we acknowledge that we travel across the ancient landscapes of many First Peoples communities.

These lands have been nurtured and cared for over tens of thousands of years and we respect the work of Traditional Custodians for their ongoing care and protection.

We recognise the past injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country. As our knowledge grows, we hope that we can learn from their resilience and creativity that has guided them for over 60,000 years.

As we invite people to visit and explore Victoria’s Midwest, we ask that alongside us, you also grow to respect the stories, living culture and connection to Country of the Ancestors and Elders of our First Peoples.


© 2023 Ballarat In The Know. This initiative is funded by the City of Ballarat and Tourism Midwest Victoria.