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An older Henry Parkes, looking very much like 'The Father of Federation' he is known as

Image title:
Sir Henry Parkes

National Library of Australia

Image ID:

Henry Parkes(1815–1896)

'The Father of Federation'

Parkes came from England to Sydney with his wife in 1839.

He worked first on a farm and hated it. But he was clever and wanted to become rich so he quickly found better work. By 1850 he was running a newspaper which called for more rights for the people and he was soon elected to parliament because of his support for democracy. He was premier of New South Wales five times, switching sides often and always giving a good speech to explain why. He kept trying to make money in business but always failed.

In 1889 in a speech at Tenterfield he declared that the colonies must not just cooperate; they should form a strong new nation. The convention that he organised met in 1891 and drew up a constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia. This is very like the constitution which was finally adopted in 1901. Parkes was then dead, but he was the one who had said most powerfully that making a nation was a great work and that the colonies should set aside their differences to make it happen.