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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 city earned the nickname "The Golden City" in the 1850s.However the early population was largely itinerant.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.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.

It has endured as a major regional centre hosting the rowing and kayaking events from the 1956 Summer Olympics.

The Yuille family, Scottish settlers Archibald Buchanan Yuille and his brother William Cross Yuille, arrived in 1837 and squatted a 10,000-acre (4,000 ha) sheep run.

The first houses were built near Woolshed Creek by William Yuille and Anderson (Sebastopol), while Yuille erected a hut at Black Swamp (Lake Wendouree) in 1838.

Prior to the European settlement of Australia, the Ballarat region was populated by the Wathaurong people, an Indigenous Australian people.

The Boro gundidj tribe's territory was based along the Yarrowee River.

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