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Saturday, 27 November 2021
Parramatta Square
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Today’s ceremony, marking the 160th anniversary of the proclamation of the Municipality of Parramatta, is about connection: connection to country, connection to history, connection to community, connection with each other.

Archaeological records show that this was a place of visitation by various Aboriginal groups, drawn here by fresh water and other natural resources. [1]  They brought with them stone tools of extraordinarily high quality and other raw materials from the Hawkesbury-Nepean and Grose Rivers.  It is those tools and materials that give us the first known connection with this area.

As is the want of people universally, these visiting groups gradually settled and formed common languages groups, including that of the Darug language.  

The arrival of white settlers disturbed this long connection to land, language and community.  It is the resilience of the proud people of that time that enables Western Sydney of today to learn from what is the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island population of any region in Australia and to thank them for allowing us to stand proudly with them, to connect with their history and to their community.[2]

The natural resources of Parramatta were quickly recognised as critical to the fledgling colony established in 1788.  Arthur Phillip, the colony’s first Governor, established both government and privately-operated farms in the area, which was initially known as Rose Hill, but renamed Parramatta by Captain Phillip, honouring the connection of the local First Nations people with this place.[3]

Government House Parramatta (Old Government House) was completed in 1799 under our second Governor, Captain John Hunter. It served as the Governors’ country residence over seven decades for ten early Governors, some of whom preferred the beautiful surrounds of this area to “the unsanitary and crime-ridden streets of Sydney Town”.[4]  

In 1816, Governor Macquarie - our 5th Governor - completed the extensions to Old Government House and that is what we largely recognise today.[5]   For that legacy and so many of Parramatta’s heritage buildings, we are indebted to Governor Macquarie.

The 6th Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane had a connection of a different kind to Parramatta.  A person of towering intellect and with a passion for learning, he established what is known today as the Royal Society of New South Wales, a Society whose quest for intellectual inquiry and scientific research continues as it celebrates its 200th anniversary this year .   

It was Governor Brisbane’s interest in science and astronomy, in particular, that saw him establish the colony’s first astronomical observatory here in 1822. With a strong personal engagement in the project, it was important to Brisbane for the Observatory to be built close to Old Government House, which he used as his major residence for much of the time of his commission as Governor.   Brisbane initially bore the expense of the astronomical instruments used in the Observatory, but was repaid by the colonial Government when he left the colony![6]  The white Obelisk in Parramatta Park marks the site of the Australia’s first observatory connecting the users of the Park today with the early scientific history of the colony. 

Governor Brisbane was also the inaugural patron of the newly-established Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales (RAS NSW) in 1822 which, the following year, held its first ever Agricultural Show here in Parramatta.  An unbroken line of Governor has served as Patron of the RAS NSW ever since.  The 1823 Show at Parramatta is arguably one of the first examples of the celebration of ‘Aussie-grown’ produce, as the rules stipulated that "sheep must be ‘Australian Merino’" and Cattle and Horses must be "colonial bred".[7] At next year’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the ‘Easter Show’ one might expect - or, at least, certainly hope  - that the Royal Agricultural Society will pay particular homage to the  inception of the Easter Show here at Parramatta.

An historical connection of a different and a sad kind linking the Governor with Parramatta occurred with the tragic death of Governor Fitzroy’s wife and his Aide-de-Camp, Lieutenant Charles Masters, in a carriage accident on the Governor’s Domain in 1847.[8]  Lady Fitzroy was buried in St John’s Cemetery.  So deeply felt was the loss that the local community erected a monument in the memory of Lady Fitzroy and Lieutenant Masters, which can still be found in Parramatta Park today.

But it was Governor Sir John Young who, following a petition of 307 householders, and a subsequent petition from another 246 – determined in 1861 that the district known as the County of Cumberland be called ‘The Municipality of Parramatta’.[9]

In 1988, another proclamation was made, this time by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, proclaiming that in its centenary year, the proud City of Parramatta warranted the honour of its mayor being entitled ‘Lord Mayor’.  The first Lord Mayor, Alan Hyam is part of today’s celebrations.

And that brings us to today’s celebration, on a day that is a little soggy from the rain but certainly not dampened in spirit.

I am proud to be here today to join the community of Parramatta in marking this important milestone.  I join a long line of Governors who have been proud of their connection with Parramatta, and indeed I am proud to have a long family connection with this place, my own ancestor being the first constable of Parramatta.   

Places may survive, but they do not thrive without connection.  The original communities understood that.  The settlement community came to understand it.   Today’s community lives it.   The First Nations' peoples, the early white settlers, the convicts, the visionaries, scientists, artists, architects, town planners and builders have seen this City emerge to grow into a place which is serene in its natural beauty and vibrant in its modern-built emanation.  It is this combination that will take the City and its people into the future.  Forever ancient, always new, the Parramatta of the next 160 years is well captured in those words of the  New South Wales State …"quam pura nites" – … "how brightly you shine".

Happy 160th, Parramatta!

[9] Government Gazette, 26 November, 1861:







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