Outsiders originally knew of the settlement as Yuille's Station and Yuille's Swamp.
Archibald Yuille named the area "Ballaarat" Some claim the name is derived from a local Wathaurong Aboriginal word for the area, balla arat.
The first Europeans to sight the area were an 1837 party of six mostly Scottish squatters from Geelong, led by Somerville Learmonth, who were in search of land less affected by the severe drought for their sheep to graze.
The party scaled Mount Buninyong; among them were Somerville's brother Thomas Livingstone Learmonth, William Cross Yuille and Henry Anderson, all three of whom later claimed land in what is now Ballarat.
As news of the Australian gold rushes reached the world, Ballarat gained an international reputation as a particularly rich goldfield.
As a result, a huge influx of immigrants occurred, including many from Ireland and China, gathering in a collection of prospecting shanty towns around the creeks and hills.
The new town's main streets of the time were named in honour of police commissioners and gold commissioners of the time, with the main street, Sturt Street, named after Evelyn Pitfield Shirley Sturt; Dana Street named after Henry Dana; Lydiard Street after his assistant; Doveton Street after Francis Crossman Doveton, Ballarat's first gold commissioner; Armstrong after David Armstrong; and Mair Street after William Mair.
Yields were particularly high, with the first prospectors in the area extracting between half an ounce (which was more than the average wage of the time) and up to five ounces of alluvial gold per day.The first newspaper, The Banner, published on 11 September 1853, was one of many to be distributed during the gold-rush period.Print media played a large role in the early history of the settlement.In response to this event the first male suffrage in Australia was instituted and as such Eureka is interpreted by some as the origin of democracy in Australia.The rebellion's symbol, the Eureka Flag, has become a national symbol and is held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat.After a narrow popular vote the city merged with the town of Ballarat East in 1921, ending a long-standing rivalry.Although significant deposits of gold have been mined in the area and mining continues to this day Ballarat is not part of Victoria's Goldfields region.Proclaimed a city in 1871, its prosperity continued until late in the 19th century, after which its importance relative to both Melbourne and Geelong rapidly faded with the slowing of gold extraction.It has endured as a major regional centre hosting the rowing and kayaking events from the 1956 Summer Olympics.As quickly as the alluvial deposits drew prospectors to Ballarat, the rate of gold extraction fluctuated and, as they were rapidly worked dry, many quickly moved to rush other fields as new findings were announced, particularly Mount Alexander in 1852, Fiery Creek many of whom had built personal wealth in gold, established a prosperous economy based around a shift to deep underground gold mining.Confidence of the city's early citizens in the enduring future of their city is evident in the sheer scale of many of the early public buildings, generous public recreational spaces, and opulence of many of its commercial establishments and private housing.