This year, 2014, will see the bicentenary of the deaths of two of the most extraordinary men in Australian history: Captain Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales and the founder of our modern nation, and Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, the man who charted the entire coastline of the continent upon which he, for the first time, bestowed the name “Australia”.
In 1787 his experience and resourcefulness made him the ideal choice to command the proposed First Fleet to establish a British convict settlement on the shores of faraway Australia. He declared that “there will never be any slavery in this land”.
Matthew Flinders dedicated himself to a life of discovery and is ranked second only to Captain James Cook among the explorers of his time. Born in 1774, Flinders, like Phillip, joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15. In1795 Flinders sailed to Australia with the incoming Governor Hunter and began his long task of mapping the great south land.
Flinders proved that Tasmania was a separate island and completely charted Australia’s coastline with such accuracy that some of his charts remained in use until World War II. Arriving in England in failing health in October 1810 Flinders belatedly was promoted to captain and began work on his monumental work A Voyage to Terra Australis.
Captain Arthur Phillip’s extraordinary achievement in herding and leading the First Fleet—11 ships filled with 1,000 of Britain’s most unwanted—24,000 kilometres across the world, will be celebrated on 9 July with the installation of a memorial stone at Westminster Abbey to mark the bicentenary of Phillip’s death. The success of Arthur Phillip’s journey from England was nothing short of miraculous, both in its undertaking and in its result. I urge the New South Wales Government and Premier Baird fully to honour our founding fathers Governor Arthur Phillip and Lieutenant Matthew Flinders.