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Tuesday, 29 November 1938


Mr GANDER (Reid) .- The matter to which I shall refer relates to the Department of the Interior. I earnestly suggest to the Government that steps be taken to commemorate in our National Capital some of the great names in the literary and cultural history of Australia. I have in mind, in particular, that great Australian, Henry Lawson. I well recollect that when he died the Government of New South Wales accorded him a State funeral. It is surely not too much to expect the Commonwealth Government to commemorate his memory in the National Capital. Nearly twelve years have elapsed since the Seat of Government was transferred to Canberra. In that time many thousands of people from other parts of Australia, and also from countries overseas, have visited this city. For all we know, they may have left it, and in the case of the overseas visitors, they may have left Australia, with the impression that the Commonwealth has produced no great writers, no great thinkers and no great artists, or with the equally objectionable impression that Australia is not in the least interested in the great men of its past. I say this because the Government has done nothing to perpetuate the memory of such men in the National

Capital. It would be a national tragedy if this indifference were allowed to continue, and I strongly urge the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to give consideration to the subject. Henry Lawson was most gloriously identified with the birth and growth of the true Australian spirit. I notice that an amount of £250,000 can be spared for a

Avar memorial to remind us, for all time, of the tragedy and horror of war; but, apparently, not even a tiny fraction of that amount can be provided to enshrine in our National Capital the memory of one of the men who delineated in his writings all the best things for which this Capital City stands. I urge the Minister to give attention during the coming financial year to the erection of a memorial to Henry Lawson, for he- typifies, to my mind, the men whom we should remember in this way in the National Capital. Many men whose' lives and writings are entwined in the history and spirit of Australia were men without privilege, wealth or power, but they loved this country and traced for it a destiny which time is realizing, however tardily. I am not particularly concerned about the nature of the memorial, but I think it important that people who come to Canberra from the remotest outposts of our continent should find here a visual reminder that we cherish the precious names of those who, in their several ways, have for all time illuminated the history of Australia's pioneering days. Those who walk around Canberra notice that the only tangible memorial of this kind is dedicated to the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. It was erected through the private efforts of Australian Scots. Because of that statue, Canberra itself has a new meaning for the Scots who visit it. I have always been a great admirer of " Rabbie " Burns, and it is very pleasing to see on Burns's national day in Sydney, the number of people who make a pilgrimage to the poet's monument in order to pay -homage to his memory. I am afraid, however, that could Burns have visited the . homes of many of the Scotsmen who to-day pay tribute to him, they would have slammed the door in his face. I do not believe that it would be so with the Australian people in respect of their national heroes. We revere the names of those who in past days did great things for this country, and among these that of Henry Lawson is held particularly dear. These people suffered as well as worked for the development of this country. Henry Lawson, in particular, actually lived among the shearers and drovers of the outback. He knew the circumstances of their daily lives and recorded them with a faithfulness that must always be admired. Many of the visitors to our outback in days gone by lived in the homesteads of the squatting aristocracy. As he himself wrote -

They sought the greeny patches,

And travelled like a gent.

But Lawson lived among the shearers, and he wrote from a full heart which beat in sympathy with the workers of this country. He had a love for the trees of the bush, and for the wildflowers and birds of the outback, which he expressed in words that will never be forgotten. I hope therefore that the Minister for the Interior, who is a good Australian, and also the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who is sitting beside him at the table at the moment, will give sympathetic attention to the appeal that I am making for a statue to be erected in Canberra to Lawson's memory.


Mr Ward - They are only "Nats"; they won't do anything.


Mr GANDER - Even "Nats" may do something useful occasionally. I hope that this will be such an occasion. If the Government gives favorable consideration to my suggestion, I shall request the Printing Committee, an important body of which I am a member, to consider printing leaflets containing extracts from Henry Lawson's works for distribution to tourists who visit the proposed memorial. In this way a deservedly increased publicity would be given to his writings.







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