The Chinese Australian Cultural Society Ballarat is welcoming two very special new additions to its pride this Chinese New Year. At Sovereign Hill on Sunday 22 February, the members of the lion team will be waking up a pair of new red lions as part of the celebration. We spoke to lion team leader Jessica Philips about the day, her team and Chinese lions.

What are the roles of lions and dragons, symbolically? Dragons are the guardians of heaven. On the ground they don’t have any strength. Lions are the guardians of the earth, and they protect the dragons when they’re here. The lions are always in front of the dragons looking after them.

How many people are involved in the lion team? There are about 12 kids of differing ages. The youngest is three or four – he just comes along and does what he can – and the oldest is 20. Obviously we’d like that number to grow. Most of them are Chinese kids whose parents are involved in the association, but others found out about it through the school.

How long does it take the team to prepare for the Sovereign Hill Chinese New Year celebrations? We train once a week during school term for about two hours at a time. As far as the performance on Sunday goes, planning started at the beginning of December.

What part do lions play in the celebrations, apart from protecting the dragon? Lions lead the parade and scare away all the evil spirits. They also perform on obstacles, which symbolises getting over obstacles in your life.

Sovereign Hill’s Chinese New Year celebrations begin at 10am on Sunday 22 February. The new lions will be woken at 10.45am at the Chinese Temple. You can also try lion dancing at a workshop at the Victoria Theatre at 12.30pm.