Bathurst Bicentenary: Reinstatement of Macquarie's Flag Staff
07 May 2015
It is a great pleasure to be here to mark Bathurst's Bicentenary.
This is a special day for Bathurst but it is also a special day for all Australians who live outside the capital cities. It is also the bicentenary of regional Australia—with Bathurst the first European settlement in inland Australia.
The Prime Minister Tony Abbott, regrets he is unable to join you, but sends his best wishes.
Fifty years ago almost to the day, Sir Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister of the day was in Bathurst to celebrate the 150th anniversary.
Sir Robert spoke of our forefathers whose greatest concern was to extend the boundaries of settlement.
Sir Robert noted that without their courage and determination, Australia would have remained a relatively poor country instead of the rich and well balanced country we have become.
Menzies talked about the explorers Wentworth, Blaxland and Lawson…“who came over the lip of the mountains and discovered these plains…and who opened up country that was a mere dream…enabling people to live in it, and have families in it, and enjoy the fruits of the earth and add to them.”
It had taken 25 years to travel for the first time from the colony at Sydney Cove to cross the Blue Mountains—just a few kilometres—and a further two years for the first inland settlements to be established.
Bathurst holds an important place in Australian history as the birthplace of regional Australia—our first inland settlement.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie was Bathurst's most important forefather.
He was a visionary, he had a passion for infrastructure and he saw the potential in Bathurst—not only its beauty, but its strategic location.
In Bathurst he created a regional centre and gateway for much of the exploration and development that took place in New South Wales.
Governor Macquarie is responsible for numerous public works projects including the 163.3 kilometres of road that would become the Great Western Highway connecting Bathurst and Sydney.
Today, the Great Western is not only the main arterial road for communities of the Blue Mountains, but also serves as a vital freight transport and commuter link between central and western New South Wales and the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area.
The road and subsequent settlement at Bathurst were not only the first steps towards the interconnectivity of New South Wales and a successful export industry, they marked the beginning of the country's exploration inland and paved the way for what we term today—regional Australia.
They were a vital and necessary step in Australia's transition from a penal settlement to a free colony that could look forward to economic expansion and future prosperity.
Two hundred years later we are all reaping the benefits of Governor Macquarie's hard work and visionary thinking.
Regional Australia accounts for just over one-third of our population, but it delivers around two-thirds of our export earnings.
Our nation rode on the sheep's back, then the earning of diverse agricultural industries, and now our mineral wealth—all from regional Australia.
Dynamic, secure and viable regional economies such as Bathurst are as essential to Australia's future, as they are integral to our Australian values and sense of identity.
It is, therefore, my great pleasure to join the Bathurst community to again create history by reinstating the Flag Staff where Governor Macquarie planted it.
The Australian Government is proud to have committed $250,000 towards the Bathurst Bicentenary Celebrations and Flag Staff project as a permanent memorial to acknowledge the builders of our nation.
Your local Federal Member John Cobb was a very strong advocate for this project, and was instrumental in delivering this very important project in a difficult financial environment.
My thanks to Councillor Rush and everyone at Bathurst Regional Council for their hard work in making this project a reality.
I also acknowledge the community contribution that has gone into making today the great celebration it is shaping up to be.
I congratulate you all on this important milestone and the way you have chosen to recognise it.
I have no doubt this very location will become a tourist destination in its own right, and a unique opportunity for Australians and international visitors to learn more about Bathurst's important place in Australia's history.
I wish you a wonderful day.