Faithful celebration: Members of the Ballarat-based Baha’i community at an event before the pandemic. Photo: SUPPLIED

Ballarat’s rich Baha’i history

October 18, 2020 BY

THIS year, the Ballarat Baha’i community celebrated a century since the faith reached Australian shores by remembering its rich history in the region with some help from the Virtual Soul Choir.

Although COVID made it impossible to celebrate in person, member of the Ballarat Baha’i community Dellaram Vreeland said the community still felt it was important to recognise the significant anniversary.

“We wanted to find a way to mark the occasion because it was still important to share the message that we are all one and that humanity is all one which is at the core of our faith,” she said.

“If it’s ever a time that people have realised this it is now, so we felt it was an apt time.

“Working alongside some of the most beautiful artists in Ballarat to perform the Song of Celebration in the Virtual Soul Choir was something to showcase community spirit and bring about joy in people’s lives.”

Now with over 5 million followers worldwide, the Baha’i faith was originally founded by the prophet Baha’u’llah in the mid-19th century in Iran, formerly Persia.

While the religion has been in effect for over 200 years, Ms Vreeland said it continues to be a way for Baha’i’s across the world to work for change and betterment in their communities.

“It’s an independent world religion and the overarching mandate of the faith is the one-ness of humanity,” Ms Vreeland said.

“This animates everything that we do as Baha’i’s in order to build a better world which is characterised by love and unity.

“The faith is not just about talk, it’s about the steps you are meant to take to bring forth societal betterment, it’s about transforming ourselves and then resulting change in our neighbourhoods.”

Although the faith has now travelled across the country, the very first Baha’i woman was raised right here in Ballarat.

Her name was Euphemia (Effie) Eleanor Baker grew up at the observatory with her grandparents, one of which was Henry

Ballarat’s own Euphemia (Effie) Eleanor Baker was the first woman in the country to join the faith. Photo: AUSTRALIAN BAHA’I NATIONAL ARCHIVES

Evans Baker who was the first superintendent at the Ballarat Observatory.

Ms Vreeland said it was particularly important for the Ballarat community to celebrate the faith’s 100-year milestone considering the rich history it has with the city.

“It was so important for us to mark this occasion because of our strong ties with Ballarat,” she said.

“It’s heart-warming to know that we have such a strong connection, she was the first women in Australia to accept the faith and she’s from Ballarat, it’s really great.”

As a part of the faith since birth, Ms Vreeland’s family were forced to flee Iran more than 30 years ago because Baha’i’s were living in persecution.

Although she was offered a choice to leave the faith when she was a teenager, she said she decided to remain because it aligned with everything she believed in.

“My husband Elliot was raised in the faith but his parents found it themselves in the 1970s, everybody has their own story and journey and that’s what makes it so beautiful,” she said.

“We strive to hold these values and these writings from the Baha’u’llah and the faith of oneness and unity which allow us to create a framework within which we try to live.”

Although the Baha’i community regularly run activities and events for children and adults aimed towards developing local communities, Ms Vreeland said these gatherings are not at all exclusive.

“Everything we do is open to likeminded individuals who are interested in building a better community,” she said.

“Things like social justice and environmental justice are so essential in the world we live in, but unless they have this spiritual foundation, a lot of the time they don’t yield any fruit.

“Whoever is passionate about working towards change with a spiritual foundation, that’s what the community building activities of the faith are about.”