Henry Parkes whistle-blower

Henry Parkes whistle-blower

It’s a little known fact that Henry Parkes was one of Sydney’s early whistle-blowers, calling out corruption in the colonial customs service. He arrived in Sydney in 1839, aged 24, with his wife Clarinda and their new baby daughter, who had been born on the voyage out from England. Virtually penniless, he took a job as an agricultural labourer but after six months was able to get a position as a ‘tidewaiter’ with the Customs Department. A tidewaiter was responsible for recording items coming ashore from visiting ships so that the relevant customs duties could be applied.

Apparently, Henry became aware of various rorts involving alcohol being taken by Customs employees in breach of the rules. After alerting his superiors without success, he wrote to the newspapers using the name of ‘A. Citizen’ detailing what he had seen. “I might multiply instances,” wrote Mr Citizen, “but I hope I have said enough to call the attention of government to the correction of what I conceive to be a great abuse.”

According to Ian Thom, chair of the Henry Parkes Foundation and great great grandson of Parkes, “Sydney at this time was in a severe depression and Henry had a secure Government position, so rocking the boat at work was risky. Even at that young age, however, his principles were strong enough to overcome the chance that he could lose his job.”

“Henry Parkes never took advantage of his public position to enrich himself in corrupt ways,” said Mr Thom. “In this respect he was honest to a fault, battling money troubles throughout his life. We are thrilled to have Professor AJ Brown as our 2019 orator, speaking on a topic that in many ways underpinned Parkes’ career and is still so relevant today.”

This year is the 130th anniversary of Henry Parkes’ famous federation speech at the Tenterfield School of Arts, and the 2019 Henry Parkes Oration will mark this anniversary on Saturday 26 October by returning to Tenterfield to explore the important role of whistle-blowers in keeping public institutions honest.

Professor AJ Brown delivers the 2019 Henry Parkes Oration 2019
Where: Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts, Tenterfield NSW
When: 2pm, Saturday 26 October 2018
Free: but booking recommended. Phone (02) 6736 6100; email c.foster@tenterfield.nsw.gov.au

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Political communication: knowledge or noise? 2016 oration to be held in Canberra

talking to media illustration concept

The 24-hour news cycle and rise of social media provide more opportunities than ever for politicians to connect with the electorate. Why, then, is voter disillusionment with our political leaders so high?

In ‘Knowledge or noise: the problem with political communication’ distinguished journalist Karen Middleton will explore  the role of the news media in conveying political messages. Who’s responsible when politicians can’t cut through? And how do we avoid the knowledge we need being lost in all that noise?

Monday 24 October, 5.30-7.30pm. Museum of Australian Democracy, Canberra

NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE

2015 oration to trace development of the nursing profession in Australia

Dr Georgina WillettsThe 13th Henry Parkes Oration will be delivered by Dr Georgina Willetts in Tenterfield, NSW, on the topic ‘From Nightingale nurses to a modern profession: the journey of nursing in Australia’.

Dr Willetts will trace the profession from its beginnings when nurse Lucy Osburn arrived in Sydney as superintendent of the ‘Sydney Infirmary’ in 1868, at Henry Parkes’ request. Establishment of the Nightingale schools for nurse training soon followed.

Parkes’ support and Miss Osburn’s dedication laid strong foundations, but the many challenges along the way have required new solutions and new approaches.

As a descendant of Parkes as well as a distinguished nursing educator, Georgina Willetts offers a unique perspective on the development and current role of this vitally important profession.

13th Henry Parkes Oration
2pm, Saturday 17 October 2015.
Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts, Tenterfield

Free, but booking recommended. (02) 6736 6100 or email h.bolton@tenterfield.nsw.gov.au

UPDATE 22 October 2015: Read the full text


Dr Georgina Willetts, DEd(Melb), MEd(Melb), RN:RM, MRCNA, AIMM, has over 30 years acute nursing experience and a distinguished academic career. Currently coordinating the Bachelor of Nursing at Monash University, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria (Clayton Campus) in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, she has wide experience in management, education and practice development, with research interests across education, leadership and professional identity in nursing. She is a great, great granddaughter of Sir Henry Parkes.

Henry Parkes Foundation launches new book to commemorate bicentenary of Parkes’ birth

The Crimson Thread coverIdeas for contemporary Australia, inspired by the vision of founding father Henry Parkes

Wednesday 27 May marks 200 years since the birth of Henry Parkes. Best known as the ‘Father of Federation’, Parkes rose from humble beginnings to become Premier of NSW five times, making significant contributions to democratic and social reform over four decades of public life, including the introduction of universal male suffrage, free secular education for children, the introduction of training for nurses in public hospitals, and funding the state’s first public library.

Parkes’ vision for social justice and equal opportunity infused his work. To commemorate the bicentenary, the Henry Parkes Foundation has released a new book, The Crimson Thread: Ideas for Australian Society. Published in association with ETT Imprint, it gathers together speeches by eminent Australians delivered for the Foundation since 2001.

Launching the book at NSW Parliament House on Wednesday, Professor Dame Marie Bashir acknowledged Parkes’ contribution to the distinctive nature of Australian society: “Many of those characteristics for which Australians are renowned across the world – egalitarianism, the rewards of integrity, access to education, fine health services, and working towards the common good – can find these ideals in an examination of the example and leadership of Henry Parkes.”

The Crimson Thread explores contemporary issues in the context of Parkes’ vision and achievements. The result is a diverse collection ranging across the shape of federal government, options for a republic, the continuing importance of public education to a healthy democracy, the challenges of a national railway system, social justice and constitutional reform, as well as evolving multiculturalism and the broader ‘crimson thread’ of kinship that is emerging to unite Australians today.

Contributors are John Bannon, Marie Bashir, Neal Blewett, Linda Burney, Lyndsay Connors, John Faulkner, Geoff Gallop, Helen Irving, Philip Laird, Ted Mack, Susan Ryan, Gordon Samuels and George Williams.

In the background throughout the book is the example of Parkes himself. As Professor George Williams states in his contribution: “Across many fields, Parkes was a reformer, and an extremely successful one at that. He demonstrated the qualities needed to achieve social justice in a tumultuous and unforgiving political process. He showed that this can be realised when it is backed by a clear vision, sound political judgement, persistence and a willingness to convince the community of the need for change.”

At a time when “democracy is drowning in distrust” according to John Faulkner, Australia needs to rekindle some of this spirit.

“This is essentially an ‘ideas’ book calculated to encourage reflection,” says Professor Brian Fletcher in the introduction. “It is a true feast for those committed to keeping Australia at the forefront of liberal democratic nations, and is particularly germane to an age in which personal ambition and the search for power and wealth seem to have replaced the ideologies which once inspired politicians and citizens alike.”

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2014 Oration to be broadcast by Radio National

2014 Oration to be broadcast by Radio National

Our 2014 oration, delivered on 25 July by the then Governor of New South Wales, Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, will be broadcast by ABC Radio National as part of their Big Ideas program at 8pm on Tuesday 28 October. See the Radio National website.

Dame Marie’s title was ‘The Enduring Legacy of Henry Parkes’. Here’s a quote:

“Modern Australia, often described as “the lucky country”, or “the happy country”, can attribute, I believe, these valid descriptions to the vision, the energy and the inspirational leadership of Henry Parkes. Many of those characteristics for which Australians are renowned across the world – egalitarianism, the rewards of integrity, access to education, fine health services, and working towards the common good – can find these ideals in an examination of the example and leadership of Henry Parkes.”
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