The Ballarat Avenue of Honour is the longest commemorative avenue in Australia and possibly the longest remaining avenue in the world commemorating service in the Great War.
The first planting of the Avenue was undertaken in June 1917 and continued with a number of sections planted over the next two years. The plantings were largely undertaken by the women employed in the E. Lucas & Co. clothing factory, with involvement by local farmers and a range of Ballarat community and employee organisations and clubs. The fundraising efforts of the Lucas employees provided funds for the purchase of trees and tree guards which were supplied by local nurseries and sawmills. The plantings included 23 species of exotic deciduous trees planted in single lines along either side of the road. The trees were numbered and allocated specifically to individuals beginning at the Ballarat end. Plaques giving details on the individual were originally attached to the tree guards; however, these were replaced by permanent bronze plaques set at the base of each tree in 1934.
The original qualifications for a person to be allocated a tree along the Avenue were that they had to be a resident of Ballarat and that they had enlisted in Ballarat or Ballarat East. As the war progressed, this was later amended to allow the inclusion of Ballarat residents who had enlisted interstate and/or overseas. The Avenue would include those who had enlisted as soldiers, sailors and nurses.
Thus in a little over two years from June 1917 to August 1919, the Lucas Girls and the Ballarat community had achieved something which in terms of commitment and scale would not be repeated around Australia.
The Avenue of Honour overpass is a unique structure that links the northern end of the Avenue. With the support of the Arch of Victory/ Avenue of Honour Committee, the City of Ballarat and Heritage Victoria, VicRoads have ensured the historical integrity of the Avenue is maintained. Every component of the overpass was designed with commemoration and the servicemen and servicewomen in mind.
The new interchange features a landscaped field on either side of the overpass which has been modelled from the battlefields of World War I that became known as Flanders Fields.
Native wildflowers have been planted to provide a blaze of colour throughout the year. The two red coloured retaining walls on each side of the structure have been carefully imprinted to replicate oak leaves, like those from the Avenue trees, and panels in the walls contain recessed text displaying places where battles were fought and the names of units that Ballarat men and women served in.
Both highway overpass bridges feature screens containing a leaf design which represents each servicemen and servicewomen from Ballarat who served, with a red coloured folded tab of the same pattern commemorating those who lost their lives during the war.