At the turn of the twentieth century, Centennial Park had 31 statues. Today only 6 remain and only two of those are originals. This statue of Henry Parkes was originally cast in 1897 and recast in 1998. Who was Sir Henry Parkes that he should forever gaze over this pre-eminent of Sydney parks?
On 1st January, 1901, Australia became a federation of states acting under a constitution. Prior to that, the continent housed a gaggle of squabbling self-governing British colonies all acting in their own best interests. On this date, the Commonwealth of Australia came into being. Parkes had taken a leading role in the negotiations and was known as ‘the Father of Federation’.
Born in 1815, Parkes and his wife emigrated to NSW in 1839. He had no schooling and few skills, but was personable with a fine turn of phrase. He lacked any semblance of financial acumen and was forever going bankrupt, as he was at his death in 1896 – penniless, with 12 children living, having been married three times. However, in the meantime, he had been Premier of NSW five times, mainly by recognising and utilising the skills of others.
Through the middle years of the century, Parkes supported issues like the ending of transportation, reduction of suffrage qualifications, and self-government for the colony. In 1883 he and Samuel Griffith from Queensland were instrumental in the setting up of a Federal Council to pursue Federation. Parkes delivered his landmark Tenterfield Oration in October 1889 and in February 1890 in Melbourne the first Federal Convention hammered out the contentious issues of colonial sovereignty. Amendment and counter-charge ensued for the rest of the decade, with the issue affirmed after the death of Parkes. He is buried, with his first wife, at Faulconbridge.