I would like to recognise one of my heroes from Australian history – William Charles Wentworth. In 1813, 200 years this year, he and two mates, Gregory Blaxland and William Lawson, crossed the Blue Mountains. I reckon Wentworth should be thought of as one of our greatest Australians, like we think of Bradman or Captain Cook. Everyone knows Macquarie or Ned Kelly but I worry that nowadays a lot of Aussies, and in particular the younger generation, don’t know who William Charles Wentworth was. Maybe they’ve heard of him but I doubt they could tell you what he is actually revered for. Here is a quick rundown:
- Born in Australia in 1790 to a convict mother.
- Sent to the UK to study law, Wentworth went on to become the first Australian-born barrister.
- Crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813.
- Started the first independent colony newspaper, ‘The Australian’.
- Wentworth was responsible for establishing basic democratic rights such as ‘trial by jury’ and elected representative government via a ‘legislative council’ in the colony of NSW.
- He lobbied the Governor and British Government on a number of issues.
- 70,000 people lined the streets of his funeral procession in 1872.
Imagine the Americans not knowing who Washington or Lincoln was, or Martin Luther King. It’s high time Wentworth was studied extensively in our schools so that young people can get inspired by great Australians and one day they will grow up and maybe make this country a better place, like Bill Wentworth did before them.