Australians on our Notes
By Reserve Bank of Australia | Sunday, 17 April 2022
Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896)
The appearance of colonial statesman Sir Henry Parkes on the new $5 note marks the return to circulation of this distinguished politician, dubbed the Father of Federation, who was once a household name.
Parkes was described during his lifetime by The Times of London as the most commanding figure in Australian politics. He was a political survivor, evidenced by the fact that he was premier of colonial New South Wales five times between 1872 and 1891. His political life spanned the second half of the nineteenth century, from the establishment of responsible self government in 1856, which was followed by the era of faction politics characterised by shifting alliances, through to the advent of the party system. He was knighted in 1877.
Born in Warwickshire, England, in 1815, Parkes became a bone and ivory turner, a skilled artisan, and emigrated to NSW in 1839. He drifted into journalism after fitful progress in his trade. His literary and political writings belied his lack of formal education. While in England he had taken up the cause of political radicalism and coming to the colony continued his interest in politics. He campaigned for universal male suffrage and in 1848 played a prominent role in the campaign against the resumption of convict transportation to New South Wales. From 1850 to 1858 he was editor and proprietor of The Empire newspaper, an organ of liberal opinion.
Parkes won a seat in the Legislative Council at the elections of 1854 and two years later he was elected to the newly established Legislative Assembly in the first Parliament under responsible self government.
Parkes' legislative and secular reforms in education, particularly the 1880 Public Instruction Act which strengthened the state education system, were controversial and aroused sectarian discord.
In 1887, in anticipation of the forthcoming Centennial celebrations, Parkes unsuccessfully sought to have NSW renamed Australia. This act was typical of Parkes' one-upmanship over his political rivals and counterparts from the other colonies.
He was, however, accorded the epithet Father of Federation for his leadership in advancing the cause for nationhood during the last decade of his life. On 24 October 1889 at a reception in his honour at the Tenterfield School of Arts, Parkes delivered an address to his former constituents that was a clarion call for Federation. In this landmark speech, which has come to be known as the Tenterfield Oration, he declared that the time was right for a convention of representatives from all the colonies to be convened to devise the constitution which would be necessary for bringing into existence a federal government with a federal parliament for the conduct of national undertaking.
Parkes convened the 1890 Federation Conference in Melbourne as a precursor to the 1891 National Australasian Convention in Sydney, where the first draft Bill of the Constitution was written. It was also there that he proposed the name Commonwealth for the unified colonies, a name that carried through to the final draft at the 1897-98 Australasian Federal Convention, which he did not live to see.
Parkes died at his home Kenilworth in the Sydney suburb of Annandale on 27 April 1896, and was buried at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains. Thrice married, his first and second wives had predeceased him. He was survived by his third wife, Julia, and numerous children from the marriages.
One of Parkes' many legacies to the citizens of New South Wales was Centennial Park, a fitting site for the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901.
Memorials to Sir Henry Parkes include the suburb of Parkes in Canberra which is home to the Federal Parliament. The central western New South Wales township of Parkes is also named in honour of him. On the 100th anniversary of his death, the Royal Australian Mint launched a general circulation $1 coin to commemorate him officially as Father of Federation.
The personal papers of Sir Henry Parkes, including his voluminous correspondence, are held in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. They constitute one of the premier documentary collections of Australia's political heritage.
Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910)
Catherine Helen Spence, journalist, social reformer and novelist, was the leading woman in public affairs at the turn of the century in Australia. She was in the
vanguard of first-wave feminism seeking equality of opportunity for women in this country, and was lauded as the Grand Old Woman of Australia. From the pulpit to the platform, she championed the rights of women, lobbied for greater child welfare provision, and argued for a more democratic electoral system.
Spence was born in Melrose, Scotland, in 1825. She emigrated to South Australia at the age of 14 with her parents and siblings and initially worked as a governess and briefly ran a small private school.
Nurturing literary ambitions since childhood, in her mid-twenties Spence began occasional paid journalism, a career which became long and distinguished. Her clear, wide-ranging articles were mainly on literature, politics and social issues. She is credited as the first woman novelist in Australia to portray antipodean issues with the publication in 1854 of her first novel, Clara Morison: A Tale of South Australia During the Gold Fever. The plots and characters of this novel and subsequent ones drew on her own experiences and circle of associates.
Around 1856, Spence converted from the Presbyterianism of her upbringing to Unitarianism. She became South Australia's first woman preacher when she delivered a sermon to the Adelaide congregation in 1878.
Spence's faith imbued her philanthropic endeavours. In 1872, she had co-founded the Boarding-Out Society, a voluntary organisation which superintended the fostering-out of state dependent children. She alternated between the offices of Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Secretary from 1872 until 1886. The next year the Society's functions were taken over by the new State Children's Council. She was an active member of the Council from its inception until just before her death. In 1897 she was the first woman appointed to the Colony's Destitute Board, commissioned in 1849 to alleviate poverty.
An advocate of public education, in 1877 she was appointed to a local school board and supported the establishment in 1879 of the first government secondary school, the Advanced School for Girls. A year later, the South Australian Education Department published her book The Laws We Live Under. This textbook broke new ground by outlining citizens' rights and responsibilities. It foreshadowed the introduction of courses on civics and legal studies in curricula across the country throughout the twentieth century.
Her interest in electoral reform was sparked in 1859 by an article on the Thomas Hare system of proportional representation, by the English social philosopher John Stuart Mill. She became an inveterate pamphleteer on the topic of proportional representation and in 1892 she proposed a modified version. Three years later she formed the Effective Voting League of South Australia and campaigned for the introduction of the scheme into the Colony's electoral system.
In 1891 Spence joined the growing movement to secure the vote for women and became a Vice-President of the Women's Suffrage League. She pushed the suffragists' claims during her electoral reform campaign and throughout her 1893-94 lecture tour of the United States and Britain. She returned in December 1894 to witness the historic passing of the Constitution Amendment Bill through Parliament giving voting rights to the women of South Australia, the first Australian colony to do so.
Spence became Australia's first female political candidate when she contested, unsuccessfully, the election for delegates to the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention. She had campaigned on the single issue of proportional representation.
In 1909, Spence presided over the formation of the Women's Non-Party Political Association, which later became the League of Women Voters of South Australia.
Catherine Helen Spence died on 3 April 1910 in Norwood, Adelaide, while working on her autobiography, published posthumously later that year. She never married.
The Catherine Helen Spence Scholarship was established by the South Australian Government in 1911 to perpetuate her memory. It is generally awarded every four years to a South Australian woman to study social problems in Australia and abroad. The next scholarship will be offered in 2001.
In 1999, a plaque honouring Spence's achievements was installed at her Scottish birthplace.
AB ('Banjo') Paterson (1864 - 1941)
'Banjo' Paterson, known as Barty to his family, was born Andrew Barton Paterson at Narrambla, near Orange on 17 February 1864. His parents, Andrew Bogle and Rose Isabella Paterson were graziers on Illalong station in the Yass district.
Paterson's early education took place at home under a governess and then at the bush school in Binalong, the nearest township. From about the age of ten years he attended the Sydney Grammar School. He lived with his grandmother in Gladesville and spent the school holidays at Illalong station with his family.
After completing school the 16-year-old Paterson was articled to a Sydney firm of solicitors, Spain and Salway. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1886 and formed the legal partnership, Street and Paterson. During these years Paterson began publishing verse in the Bulletin and Sydney Mail under the pseudonyms 'B' and 'The Banjo'.
In 1895, at the age of 31 and still in partnership with Street, Andrew Barton Paterson achieved two milestones in Australian writing. He composed his now famous ballad 'Waltzing Matilda' and his first book, The Man from Snowy River, and other verses, was published by Angus & Robertson, marking the beginning of an epoch in Australian publishing. This hallmark publication sold out its first edition within a week and went through four editions in six months, making Paterson second only to Kipling in popularity among living poets writing in English. His poetry continues to sell well today and is available in many editions, some of which are illustrated.
Paterson travelled to South Africa in 1899 as special war correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald during the Boer War, and to China in 1901 with the intention of covering the Boxer Rebellion but he arrived after the uprising was over. By 1902 Paterson had left the legal profession. The following year he was appointed Editor of the Evening News (Sydney), a position he held until 1908 when he resigned to take over a property in Wee Jasper.
In 1903 he married Alice Walker in Tenterfield. Their first home was in Queen Street, Woollahra. The Patersons had two children, Grace born in 1904 and Hugh born in 1906.
During World War I Paterson sailed to Europe hoping for an appointment as war correspondent. Instead, during the course of the war he was attached as an ambulance driver to the Australian Voluntary Hospital in France and was commissioned to the 2nd Remount Unit of the AIF. He was eventually promoted to Major.
In Australia again he returned to journalism, retiring in 1930. He was created CBE in 1939. At the time of his death on 6 February 1941 his reputation as the principal folk poet of Australia was secure. His body of work included seven volumes of poetry and prose in many editions, a collection The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson (1923), a book for children The Animals Noah Forgot (1933), and an anthology The Old Bush Songs (1905), in addition to his many pieces of journalism and reportage.
Dame Mary Gilmore (1865 - 1962)
Dame Mary Gilmore was born on 16 August 1865 at Cotta Walla (near Goulburn) NSW, the eldest child of Donald and Mary Ann (nee Beattie) Cameron. Educated mainly at small country schools in the Wagga Wagga district, in January 1883 Mary became a pupil teacher at the Superior Public School, Wagga Wagga. Between 1886 and 1895 Mary served as a school teacher at Beaconsfield, Illabo, Silverton, Neutral Bay and Stanmore.
Mary's passionate desire for social reform gained political momentum in the radical and nationalist ferment of the 1890s. Sensitive to the conventions of the day, Mary guarded her teaching career during this time by writing under noms de plume, including Em Jaycey, Sister Jaycey and Rudione Calvert.
Inspired by William Lane's ideal of utopian socialism, Mary joined the New Australia Movement, contributing regularly to its journal before departing for Cosme, Paraguay in November 1895. While there she edited the daily journal, Cosme Evening Notes. On 25 May 1897 she married William Alexander Gilmore and the following year, on 21 August 1898, gave birth to their only child William Dysart Cameron Gilmore. Disillusioned with the breakdown of the Cosme community and the departure of William Lane in 1899, the Gilmores left Paraguay returning to Australia in 1902 and lived at Casterton, Victoria.
In 1912 Mary moved to Sydney with her son Billy, while William Gilmore established the first of the family properties at Cloncurry in North Queensland.
In 1908 Henry Lammond, editor of the Australian Worker, responded to Mary's request for a special page for women by inviting her to write it herself. The popularity of the column was unprecedented, with Mary remaining editor of the Women's page until 1931. Through the column Mary campaigned for a wide range of social and economic reforms, such as the women's vote, old age and invalid pensions, child endowment, the relief of the poor and the just treatment of Aborigines.
In the ensuing years Mary published numerous volumes of prose and poetry including, Marri'd and Other Verses (1910), The Tilted Cart (1925), The Wild Swan (1930), Under the Wilgas (1932), Battlefields (1939), and Fourteen Men (1954). In her prose works, The Hound of the Road (1922), Old Days, Old Ways (1934) and More Recollections (1935), Mary looked back to a tradition of a frontier society, satisfying her life-long ambition to weave the memories of her youth into a legendary and epic past.
A highly popular and nationally known writer, in 1937 she became the first person to be appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire for contributions to literature. Thereafter she was a celebrated public figure. Sydney's literati gathered annually to celebrate her birthday; awards and scholarships were given in her name; radio broadcasts and public appearances commanded her time.
During World War II Mary captured the hearts of Australians with a stirring call to patriotism in the poems 'No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest' and 'Singapore', earning her the unexpected praise of General Douglas MacArthur.
An inveterate letter writer, through her correspondence Mary Gilmore maintained lifelong friendships with generations of Australian artists, writers and politicians. She was a founding member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and Sydney's Lyceum Club; active in organisations as diverse as the New South Wales Institute of Journalists and the Aboriginal Australian Fellowship.
In 1952 Mary commenced a regular column for the Tribune. Mary Gilmore's 'Arrows', venting her egalitarian and democratic views, appeared in the newspaper until shortly before her death in 1962.
In 1961 Australian Trade Unions honoured Mary's contribution to the labour movement, crowning her May Queen for the May Day procession.
Dame Mary Gilmore died on Monday, 3 December 1962. Three days later on Thursday, 6 December 1962 Sydney witnessed the first State funeral accorded to an Australian writer since the death of Henry Lawson forty years earlier.
Mary Reibey (1777 - 1855)
Mary Reibey, baptised Molly Haydock, was born on 12 May 1777 in Bury, Lancashire, England. Following the death of her parents, she was reared by a grandmother and sent into service. She ran away, and was arrested for horse stealing in August 1791. Sentenced to seven years' transportation, she arrived in New South Wales on the Royal Admiral in October 1792.
On 7 September 1794, 17-year-old Mary married Thomas Raby, a junior officer on the store ship Britannia. Raby also used the surnames Raiby, Reiby and Reibey interchangeably, but the family adopted the spelling Reibey in later years. Thomas Raby was granted land on the Hawkesbury River, where he and Mary lived and farmed following their marriage. He commenced a cargo business along the Hawkesbury River to Sydney, and later moved to Sydney.
Thomas Reibey's business undertakings prospered, enabling him in 1804 to build a substantial stone residence on a further grant of land near Macquarie Place. He acquired several farms on the Hawkesbury River, and traded in coal, cedar, furs and skins. He entered into a partnership with Edward Wills, and trading activities were extended to Bass Strait, the Pacific Islands and, from 1809, to China and India.
When Thomas Reibey died on 5 April 1811, Mary assumed sole responsibility for the care of seven children and control of numerous business enterprises. She was no stranger to this task, having managed her husband's affairs during his frequent absences from Sydney.
Now a woman of considerable wealth, Mary Reibey continued to expand her business interests. In 1812 she opened a new warehouse in George Street and in 1817 extended her shipping operations with the purchase of further vessels. By 1828, when she gradually retired from active involvement in commerce, she had acquired extensive property holdings in the city.
In the emancipist society of New South Wales she had gained respect for her charitable works and her interest in the church and education. She was appointed one of the Governors of the Free Grammar School in 1825.
On her retirement, she built a house at Newtown, Sydney, where she lived until her death on 30 May 1855. Five of her seven children had predeceased her.
An enterprising and determined person of strong personality, during her lifetime Mary Reibey earned a reputation as an astute and most successful business woman in the colony of New South Wales.
John Flynn (1880 - 1951)
The Rev. John Flynn was born at Moliagul, Victoria, on 25 November 1880. He completed his training for the Presbyterian ministry, and in 1911 was appointed to the Smith of Dunesk Mission in the North Flinders Ranges of South Australia.
In 1912 Flynn was commissioned to undertake a survey of the needs of both the Aboriginal people and white settlers of the Northern Territory. His detailed reports resulted in the creation by the Presbyterian Church of its Australian Inland Mission (AIM), of which Flynn was appointed Superintendent. The Mission, which commenced operation with one nursing hostel, a nursing sister and a padre, had by 1926, under Flynn's leadership, become a network of ten strategically placed nursing hostels operating closely with patrol padres.
Keenly aware of the isolation of the people of inland Australia, between 1913 and 1927 Flynn used his magazine The Inlander as a vehicle to elicit financial support, to publicise the Mission's achievements and to make known his plans for the future. He believed that a "mantle of safety" could be created for the isolated communities of Northern Australia only with the establishment of an aerial medical service and the introduction of radio communications.
Despite many setbacks and considerable opposition, Flynn's vision became a reality. On 17 May 1928, Dr K St Vincent Welch with pilot Arthur Affleck at the controls of Victory, a De Havilland 50 aircraft leased from QANTAS, flew from Cloncurry to Julia Creek to answer the first call received by the AIM Aerial Medical Service. When in 1929, the first pedal wireless built by Alfred Traeger was installed in Queensland, Flynn's quest for the more adequate protection of isolated communities was fulfilled.
Flynn realised, however, that to operate successfully the fledgling aerial medical service must become part of a national operation with access to greater resources. To this end, he maintained constant contact with Members of Parliament and argued persuasively to gain the approval of the Presbyterian Church for a wider co-operative venture. In 1934, the Australian Aerial Medical Service, as it was then known, was established. (The name was changed in 1942 to Flying Doctor Service of Australia, and the designation "Royal" was added in 1955.)
In 1932 at the age of 51, Flynn married Jean Blanch Baird, Secretary of the Australian Inland Mission. He was appointed OBE in June 1933. In 1939, he was elected Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia for a three-year term. A kind and humble man, with a dry sense of humour and the ability to get along with people, Flynn enhanced the quality of life in distant communities by reducing isolation and loneliness.
Flynn's vision finally saw the establishment of 13 flying doctor bases around Australia, which continue to spread "a mantle of safety" across 6.9 million square kilometres, or 80% of the Australian continent. The Royal Flying Doctor Service remains the largest and most comprehensive aeromedical emergency and health care service in the world.
Flynn died of cancer in Sydney on 5 May 1951 and his ashes were buried at the foot of Mt Gillen, Alice Springs. In 1956, the John Flynn Memorial Church was opened in Alice Springs as a tribute to a great Australian whose compassion, zeal and vision transformed the lives of the inhabitants of inland Australia.
David Unaipon (1872 - 1967)
Writer, public speaker and inventor.
David Unaipon made significant contributions to science and literature, and to improvements in the conditions of Aboriginal people.
A Ngarrindjeri man, Unaipon was born at the Point McLeay Mission, on the Lower Murray in South Australia, on 28 September 1872, the fourth of nine children of the evangelist James Ngunaitponi and his wife Nymbulda, both of whom were Yaraldi speakers.
Unaipon received his initial education at the Point McLeay Mission School and as a teenager demonstrated a thirst for knowledge, particularly in philosophy, science and music. An avid reader, he was obsessed with scientific works and inventions and, with no advanced education in mathematics, he researched many engineering problems and devised a number of his own inventions.
In 1909 he patented an improved handpiece for sheep-shearing. Other inventions included a centrifugal motor, a multi-radial wheel and mechanical propulsion device; he was unable, however, to get financial backing to develop his ideas. He gained a reputation at the time of being "Australia's Leonardo" for his promotion of scientific ideas. As early as 1914, Unaipon anticipated the helicopter, applying the principle of the boomerang. His search for the secret of perpetual motion lasted throughout his life.
Unaipon, who married Katherine Carter (nee Sumner), a Tangani woman from The Coorong in January 1902, was prominent in public life as a spokesman for Aboriginal people. He was often called upon to participate in royal commissions and inquiries into Aboriginal issues. In 1928-29 he assisted the Bleakley inquiry into Aboriginal welfare. In 1934, he urged the Commonwealth to assume responsibility for Aboriginal affairs and proposed that an independent board replace South Australia's Chief Protector of Aborigines.
As an employee of the Aborigines' Friends' Association for many years, he travelled widely and became well known through south-eastern Australia. While on his travels, Unaipon lectured on his ideas, preached sermons and spoke about Aboriginal legends and customs. He also spoke of the need for "sympathetic co-operation" between whites and blacks, and for equal rights for both black and white Australians.
Unaipon became the first Aboriginal writer to be published. His earliest published works include an article entitled "Aboriginals: Their Traditions and Customs" in the Sydney Daily Telegraph (2 August 1924), "The Story of the Mungingee" in The Home magazine (February 1925), and a fifteen page booklet entitled Native Legends (published in 1929). His articles in the Sydney Daily Telegraph were said to have been written in a prose that showed the influence of Milton, whose poetry he memorised, and Bunyan.
His writings were included in Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals (London, 1930). Other articles, poetry and legends were published throughout his life. The hand-written manuscript of his small book on Aboriginal Legends, which is reflected in the $50 note, survives in the Mitchell Library in Sydney.
Unaipon was awarded a Coronation Medal in 1953. He died on 7 February 1967 and was buried in Point McLeay cemetery. In 1985, he posthumously won the FAW Patricia Weickhardt Award for Aboriginal writers. He was also honoured in 1988 by the establishment of an annual national David Unaipon Award for unpublished Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, and an annual Unaipon lecture in Adelaide.
Edith Dircksey Cowan (1861 - 1932)
Social worker, politician and feminist.
Edith Cowan is best remembered as the first woman member of an Australian parliament. She was, however, a true Australian pioneer in many ways.
Edith Dircksey Cowan (nee Brown) was born on 2 August 1861 at Glengarry near Geraldton in Western Australia, the second child of pastoralist Kenneth Brown and teacher Mary Eliza Dircksey Wittenoom. Edith's childhood was marred by personal tragedy. When she was seven, her mother died in childbirth. Eight years later, her father suffering from illness and jealousy, murdered his second wife.
On 12 November 1879, Edith married James Cowan at St George's Cathedral, Perth. They had four daughters and a son between 1880 and 1891. Her husband's work as Perth police magistrate from 1890 gave Edith Cowan an insight into the problems of women and children, reinforcing her interest in social reform.
Cowan's education, at a boarding school in Perth, gave her a lifelong conviction of the value of education. Cowan served several terms on the North Fremantle Education Board. She was a strong advocate of state schooling and of the inclusion of sex education in the curriculum.
Cowan was active in numerous voluntary organisations throughout her life, many of which she helped to found. Through these organisations she worked towards important reforms for women, children and education. She became the first secretary of the Karrakatta Club for women in 1894 and later became its vice-president and president. The Club provided a forum for the discussion of women's rights, current affairs, literature and other topics.
From 1893, Cowan worked for the House of Mercy for unmarried mothers (later the Alexandra Home for Women). In 1909 she was one of the founders of the Women's Service Guild and was vice-president from 1909 to 1917. One of the aims of the Guild was to establish equal rights of citizenship for both men and women. Through fund-raising, public meetings and government lobbying, this group was instrumental in opening the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in 1916.
Cowan was involved in the creation of the Western Australian branch of the National Council of Women, an umbrella organisation for affiliated societies representing the interests of women, children and the family. She served as president from 1913 to 1921 and as vice-president until her death.
Proposed amendments to the Health Act in 1915 caused a division in the women's movement and Cowan was prominent in the controversy. She supported the clauses recommending compulsory notification of venereal disease.
From 1891, Cowan worked for the Ministering Children's League. She was also a foundation member of the Children's Protection Society in 1906, serving as vice-president from 1922 to 1932. Through the Society, Cowan's hope for the establishment of day nurseries for the children of working mothers was realised. The Society lobbied successfully for the passing of the State Children's Act in 1907, which established the Children's Court. Cowan was one of the first women appointed to its bench in 1915, and also became one of the first female Justices of the Peace in 1920.
During the First World War, Cowan worked with the Red Cross and other organisations. In 1920, this work was recognised with the award of an OBE. Also active in the Anglican Church, Cowan was the first female member of the Anglican Social Questions Committee and a co-opted member of Synod from 1923.
Cowan was a strong campaigner for women's democratic rights to enter Parliament. With legislation enacted in 1920 to remove the legal bar to women entering Parliament, Cowan stood for the 1921 State election. As the successful Nationalist candidate for the seat of West Perth, Cowan became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia and the first female member of any Australian parliament. She used her term to promote not only women's rights, but also migrant welfare and infant health centres.
Through a private member's bill, Cowan was successful in amending the Administration Act to give equal inheritance rights to mothers when children died intestate. The legal profession was opened to women as a result of her second successful private member's bill, which became the Women's Legal Status Act of 1923. Cowan lost her seat in 1924 and failed to regain it in 1927.
Cowan was an Australian delegate to the 1925 International Conference of Women held in the United States. She helped to found the Western Australian Historical Society in 1926 and was also active in planning the State's 1929 Centenary celebrations.
Edith Cowan died on 9 June 1932. A memorial clock tower at the entrance to Kings Park in Perth was erected in her honour in 1934 "by those who admired her many good deeds for humanity". In more recent times, a federal electorate and a university have been named after her.
Dame Nellie Melba (1861 - 1931)
World renowned soprano.
In her lifetime, Dame Nellie Melba achieved international recognition as a soprano and enjoyed an unrivalled "super-star" status within Australia.
Nellie Melba was born Helen Porter Mitchell on 19 May 1861 at Richmond, Melbourne. Her Scottish father, David Mitchell, was a building contractor and a good bass vocalist, and her mother, Isabella (nee Dow) was her first music teacher. She was educated at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne and received her early singing tuition from Ellen Christian and the Italian tenor, Pietro Cecchi, who is credited with urging her to make singing her vocation.
After the death of her mother in 1881, followed by that of her youngest sister, Nellie accompanied her father to Mackay in Queensland, where he purchased a sugar mill. She married Charles Armstrong in Brisbane in 1882 and they had a son, George, the following year. The marriage was to end in divorce in 1900.
Returning to Melbourne in 1884, Nellie decided to become a professional singer and gave a number of concerts and recitals. In 1886, she had the opportunity to accompany her father to London. A successful audition with the celebrated Mathilde Marchesi in Paris gave her career the boost that it needed. She began lessons with Marchesi and was introduced to composers such as Delibes, Massenet and Gounod. It was Marchesi who persuaded her to adopt a suitable stage name. "Melba" was chosen as a contraction of the name of her native city.
In 1887, Melba made her operatic debut in Brussels as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto and went on to sing with great success in London, Paris, Milan, New York and other major cities. Within a few years she was regarded as one of the most accomplished and famous sopranos of her time. Although her initial reception at Covent Garden, London, in 1888 was not especially distinguished, after a successful debut in Paris, she subsequently established herself as Covent Garden's prima donna, and the "Queen of Song" maintained her own permanent dressing room there. Her most famous operatic role was that of Mimi in Puccini's La Bohème.
Melba's triumphant home-coming in 1902 involved a concert tour of all Australian States and New Zealand. Wherever she went, large and enthusiastic crowds turned out to greet her. She returned to Europe in 1903 but was to come back to Australia many times. In 1909, she toured the Australian outback. In the same year, she bought a property at Coldstream near Lilydale, Victoria, and employed the architect John Grainger (father of the composer, Percy Grainger) to design Coombe Cottage. In 1911, 1924 and 1928 Melba brought the Melba-Williamson Opera Company to Australia.
Based in Australia during the First World War, Melba worked tirelessly to raise funds for war charities. She also gave wartime concerts in North America. For her services to the war effort, Melba was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1918. During this period she established a singing school at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in Albert Street, now renamed the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music, providing her services free of charge. She often travelled from Lilydale to teach her "Melba's Girls".
Melba's voice was remarkable for its even quality over a range of nearly three octaves, and for its pure silvery timbre. Between 1904 and 1926 she made almost 200 recordings and in 1920 she became the first artist of international standing to participate in direct radio broadcasts.
Dame Nellie Melba gave a number of supposedly "final" performances. Her final Covent Garden performance was in 1926. In Australia, her final and emotional concerts took place in 1928. In the intervening year, she sang at the opening of Parliament House in Canberra, and was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.
Melba died in Sydney on 23 February 1931 and was buried at the Lilydale Cemetery in Victoria.
Sir John Monash (1865 - 1931)
Soldier, engineer and administrator.
Sir John Monash, one of Australia's greatest military commanders, was born in West Melbourne on 27 June 1865. His father, Louis Monash, had emigrated to Melbourne from Prussia in 1853. On a return visit to his homeland in 1863, Louis met and married Bertha Manasse and the couple returned to Melbourne in 1864.
Monash was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, where he displayed intellectual talent, particularly in mathematics. He then studied arts, engineering and law at the University of Melbourne and involved himself in student politics, being a co-founder of the Melbourne University Union. In 1884, he was one of the first to join the University Company of the 4th Battalion, Victorian Rifles.
In 1885, during his mother's fatal illness, Monash interrupted his studies and sought full-time employment. He gained valuable experience in civil engineering by working on the construction of the Prince's Bridge over the Yarra River, while continuing his studies part-time. In 1888, he was given charge of construction of Melbourne's Outer Circle eastern suburban railway-line. In 1890 he resolved to complete his studies and over the next two years completed arts, engineering and law degrees. Monash married Hannah Victoria Moss in 1891 and their only child, Bertha, was born two years later.
In 1891, Monash was employed by the Melbourne Harbour Trust. Retrenched in the depth of the depression in 1894, he formed a private practice with JT Noble Anderson as civil, mining and mechanical engineers and patent agents, later specialising in contracting for bridge building. In 1905, with business associates Monash formed the successful Reinforced Concrete and Monier Pipe Construction Co Ltd.
Monash's military involvement continued concurrently with his studies and engineering employment. When the University Company disbanded, he joined the North Melbourne Battery of the Garrison Artillery, which defended Victorian ports. By 1897, Monash had been promoted to the rank of major of the North Melbourne Battery and he commanded it for the next 11 years. In 1908, he was placed in charge of the Victorian section of the Australian Intelligence Corps. He took command of the 13th Infantry Brigade as colonel in 1913.
Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Monash was appointed commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force. He trained his brigade in Egypt and then commanded it throughout the Gallipoli campaign.
After evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsula, Monash was given command of the 3rd Australian Division and promoted to major-general. He trained the new division in England before taking his men into action in France. The Division's first major battle was at Messines in June 1917. Other battles included those at Broodseinde, Passchendaele and the defence of Amiens.
In early 1918, Monash was made a Knight Commander of the Bath and in June that year was appointed commander of the Australian Corps and promoted to lieutenant-general. His military reputation reached new heights with the outstanding success of the Battle of Hamel in July which involved the collaboration of infantry, artillery, tanks and aircraft. From 8 August onwards there was a succession of victories, culminating in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line. Monash was admired for his intellect, meticulous planning, articulate communication of what was expected, and his ability to extract the best from his staff.
As Director-General of Repatriation and Demobilisation, Monash streamlined procedures for the repatriation of Australian soldiers and presided over the AIF Education Scheme which assisted their transition to civilian life. Monash himself returned home at the end of 1919 to a tumultuous welcome in Melbourne. Sadly, his wife died early in 1920 after a lengthy illness.
Later that year Monash became general manager of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, which he guided during its first ten years, developing the use of brown coal from the La Trobe Valley to produce economical power for Victoria. In 1921 he was appointed chairman of the Commission.
Throughout the twenties, Monash maintained a strong public profile, represented returned soldiers and frequently advised on military and engineering matters. He retained an affiliation and concern for Jewish affairs. He was vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne from 1923, and in his final years the cause closest to his heart was the building of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
Sir John Monash died on 8 October 1931 and was given a State funeral. An estimated 250 000 mourners, the nation's largest funeral crowd to that time, came to pay their respects. Monash University in Melbourne was named after him in 1958.