The Father of Federation – Sir Henry Parkes

Day 20 of Colourisation Project – May 27th

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication. 

Today’s photo of Sir Henry Parkes was taken by the prominent portrait photographer of the time in Australia, Henry Walter Barnett. This portrait perhaps proved to be the photographer’s most enduringly famous image.  (More on Barnett later in another post when it becomes his turn.)

Sir Henry Parkes

Photographer: Henry Walter Barnett ~ Henry Parkes ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Sir Henry Parkes was a statesman and politician who is generally considered the Father of the Australian Federation.

He really was your modern day entrepreneur. Born on this day, in Warwickshire, England in 1815, he made the decision to move to Australia in 1839 after a failed business venture. After a variety of jobs and business ventures including several bankruptcies, he was first elected to the New South Wales Parliament in 1854 and rose to become Premier of New South Wales in 1872. Infact, he went on to become five times premier of New South Wales between 1872 and 1891.  He was knighted in 1877.

He was a staunch advocate for the federation of the six colonies of Australia and worked tirelessly for this outcome. Parkes convened both the 1890 Federation Conference and the 1891 National Australasian Convention. It was Parkes who proposed the name Commonwealth of Australia for the new nation.

Today his image appears on the Australian $5 note issued in 2001 for the commemoration of the Centenary of Federation. Parkes was married three times and produced 17 children.

Sadly for Parkes, he died of natural causes on 27 April 1896, nearly five years before Australia became a Federation on the 1st January 1901.


”I have been disappointed in all my expectations of Australia, except as to its wickedness; for it is far more wicked than I have conceived it possible for any place to be, or than it is possible for me to describe to you in England.”   Sir Henry Parkes  – An Emigrant’s Home Letters (1896), written a year after Parkes arrived as an immigrant in Australia.

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