Tue. May 24th, 2022

Within Canberra’s parliamentary triangle, you can see Sir Robert Menzies strolling along the north side of Burley Griffin Lake and former Labor prime ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley in conversation as they walk from Hotel Kurrajong towards the Old Parliament House. An addition last year was another former prime minister, Sir John McEwen, who served as transition leader between Holt and Gorton. Here and there you can also find a king or queen.

Marino believes that Dorothy Tangney and Enid Lyons – as the first two women elected to the federal parliament – are suitable for the same recognition.

Labor MPs Anika Wells, Kate Thwaites and Alicia Payne returned to parliament last week from maternity leave and paid tribute to a 1943 photo of Dorothy Tangney and Dame Enid Lyons entering from the front door of the Old Parliament House.

Labor MPs Anika Wells, Kate Thwaites and Alicia Payne returned to parliament last week from maternity leave and paid tribute to a 1943 photo of Dorothy Tangney and Dame Enid Lyons entering from the front door of the Old Parliament House.Credit:National Film and Sound Archive, Alex Ellinghausen

She would also like to see greater recognition of a non-Australian woman, Marion Mahony Griffin, who was a driving force behind the design of the nation’s capital. Instead, almost everything in Canberra, including the lake, is named after her husband, Walter Burley Griffin.

At a time when militant protesters around the world are tearing down statues, Australia can and should build more to complete its history.

Why there is not a statue that recreates the iconic image of Lyons and Tangney that went in through the parliamentary doors in 1943 is a stunning oversight.

In August, it is 50 years since Neville Bonner became the first native Australian to take his seat in Parliament.

Neville Bonner was the first native Australian elected to Parliament, fifty years ago this year.

Neville Bonner was the first native Australian elected to Parliament, fifty years ago this year. Credit:Fairfax

In his passionate argument for constitutional recognition last week, Native leader Noel Pearson described Australia as a nation that “does not recognize its indigenous peoples”.

“With constitutional recognition comes the day soon when we recognize three stories: the ancient native heritage, which is the foundation of Australia, the British institutions built on it, and the ornate gift of multicultural migration,” Pearson said.

If recognition is not to be constantly kicked down the road, a statue of Bonner outside the old parliament building would be a good start. So once that is done, they can turn their eyes to Eddie Mabo and maybe even his wife Bonita, a short walk away at the High Court.

Perhaps near the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet, there is also room for Charles Perkins, the civil rights activist who became the first Aboriginal Australian to become permanent head of a federal government department.

What better way to celebrate the progress we have made as a nation?

Too many monuments to native Australians mark the atrocities of the past, and it is now time to mark the results. The same goes for women.

We do not have to waste time running focus groups or polls in search of names – they stare us in the face. Lyons and Tangney, Bonner, Mabo and Perkins. There is a pretty good start.

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Maybe one day when the 43rd Parliament is a distant memory, schoolgirls from across the country will visit Canberra and take a selfie with a bronzed Julia Gillard.

No one should argue that John Gorton does not deserve a statue in Canberra. He devoted his life to public service and strived to make Australia a better place.

But if we want to get closer to telling the nation’s full story, then there’s a pretty impressive list of candidates to start with. It would be a small but symbolic gesture to show that the government is actually getting it.

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