Theatre is a cultural Ulumbarra

The launch of the performing arts 2017 season in Bendigo this week was accompanied by a few odd moments.

The magnificent Ulumbarra Theatre was packed on Thursday night as Capital Venues manager David Lloyd gave Bendigo a taste of what’s coming in the next 12 months.

But as about 1000 people approached the theatre-in-the-jail, they were greeted by a new sight: two massive dead gum trees mounted either side of the main entrance.

Astute people (ahem) might have known these 10-metre giants were ancient aboriginal scar trees saved from the huge gum tree cull that cleared the way for work on the Calder Freeway work at Ravenswood.

Others clearly weren’t aware of the significance.

Overheard conversation on the way to the theatre: “What on Earth has happened to those trees? Looks like Powercor has been doing some tree trimming again.”


Another odd highlight came from former Victorian Supreme Court judge, Howard Nathan QC, a strong supporter of the Ulumbarra and the arts in Bendigo.

During the season launch, it was also announced that an Ulumbarra Foundation had been formed to help raise funds for the performing arts here.

The foundation is headed by the irrepressible Gordon McKern, and each of the new appointees to the organisation were showcased in a short film.

When it to Judge Nathan, he announced this wasn’t the first time he’d sent quite a few people to the place.


Okay, now pay attention and let’s get this right from now on.

The theatre/auditorium name is Ulumbarra, a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning a meeting place, or gathering together, and it is pronounced: Uh-lum-bruh.

At the launch a few folk chucked a Y at the front, making it Yuh-lum-Bruh, or even Yuh-lum-barra, which could be ancient white dialect for: You love barramundi?”

Curiously, its pronunciation is very close to the name of the 13th century Moorish fort/palace in Granada, Spain.

Its name is Alhambra, a Spanish corruption of the original Arabic, Qalat Al-Hamra, which roughly translates as The Red-Walled One.

Which again is a curious coincidence as our Ulumbarra is inside the old red brick walled jail.


It was beaut to see the Bendigo Tramways win Victoria’s cultural tourism award for the third year in a row and therefore named in the Victorian Tourism Hall of Fame.

But the old trams weren’t always so loved or praised.

The Bendigo Independent newspaper of August 7, 1917, reported outrage in the Borough of Eaglehawk over a 25 per cent rise in the weekly fare between the Borough and Bendigo.

It went up from three shillings to four and Eaglehawk was so outraged, it organised a boycott of the trams.

On the first day of the boycott, groups of Eaglehawk people were noted walking the seven kilometres into work in town, and seven kilometres back in the afternoon.

The boycott lasted one day.


Many people have been muttering how swiftly 2016 has gone now that December is here – seemingly only a few weeks after March.

It sparked a few observations.

First, life is like a toilet paper roll: the closer you get to the end, the faster it spins.

And then there’s the comment from the brilliant US columnist, Dave Barry: “Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can't see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of seventy-five dollars per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything.”

Saddest of all. In the 1890s, American psychologist William James wrote that as we age, time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events.

“The days and weeks smooth themselves out…and the years grow hollow and collapse.”

And on that bombshell …