SIR HENRY PARKES  G.C.M.G.     1815-1896.

“Macquarie made the Australian gaol a colony...

Wentworth made it a home for free men...

It was Henry Parkes who made it a democracy.”Arthur Jose, historian, 1910

Best remembered for his fiery and impassioned support for the Federation of Australian Colonies, Sir Henry Parkes took his Federation call to the people at the Tenterfield School of Arts on 24 October 1889.

Henry Parkes was born to poverty stricken family Warwickshire, England on May 27, 1815. He was put to work in a rope making yard at the age of 8 years. He later moved to the ivory turning trade but the moment he became a qualified tradesman, the bottom fell out of the market.

Having had little formal education, as a young man he attended night school in the Mechanics Institute in Birmingham. There, in 1836, he married his teacher Clarinda Varney and they applied for assisted passage to Australia following the death of two of their infant children and a failed business venture.

Arriving in Australia, he found work as a farm labourer, but low wages did not appeal! Renewing his old interest in politics, he went to work for the Customs Department in Sydney as a Tide Waiter. Over the next few years he went into business for himself and at one stage owned the Empire newspaper. Through this period be became very influential and played a major role in the cessation of transportation of convicts to Australia.

During his political career (1856-1895) he was also a strong advocate of land and educational reform, free trade and immigration. He introduced the Public Schools Act in 1866, giving power to train, appoint and dismiss teachers and also the Hospital Act providing Government inspection, supervision and appointment of trained nurses to hospitals.

Five times Premier of New South Wales, Henry Parkes was described by his contemporary Alfred Deakin as "though not rich or versatile, his personality was massive, durable and imposing, resting upon elementary qualities of human nature elevated by a strong mind. He was in himself a large-brained self-educated Titan whose natural field was found in Parliament and whose resources of character and intellect enabled him in his later years to overshadow all his contemporaries."

Throughout his long life his own qualities of honesty, optimism and energy kept the support of people who shared his vision of a good society achieved through democratic political means, by reason and persuasion, without violence.