The New South Wales Governor, Marie Bashir, officially launched the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary in Katoomba on Saturday.
Delivering her address in a marquee only metres from a mist and rain-obscured Three Sisters, Professor Bashir had no doubt about the significance of the three year celebrations of which she is the official patron.
“I cannot help but think out of all the wonderful events and celebrations I’ve attended this will stand in my memory as one of the most memorable, one of the most real and one that has brought everyone together. I wish the whole of Australia could see what is happening here today,” said Professor Bashir.
The crossings celebrations had the potential to be a unifying event, she said.
“May the next three years, the next three hundred, the next three thousand be as they are today: all of us together going forward as one people.”
Earlier, Darug elder Aunty Carol Cooper said in her Welcome to Country it was important the crossings celebrations showed respect for Aboriginal culture.
“It’s a great thing [the bicentenary]. . . Without them [the explorers] crossing, we would not have today so please don’t me let take anything away from it. All I’m asking is for a little bit of respect,” she said.
Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage said the 1813 crossing was a crucial turning point for the young nation.
“As we all know the crossing of the Blue Mountains by explorers Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813 was the pivotal event for the new colony of New South Wales at that time — and for Australia as we know it today,” she said.
“It was the foresight, vision and leadership of that other great governor, Lachlan Macquarie, that opened up the west with the building of the first road, Cox’s Road, soon after the exploration and crossing by the three explorers. This enabled the struggling colony to survive and thrive.”
Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles acknowledged that European settlement brought difficulties for the indigenous population but stressed the positive potential of the crossings bicentenary.
“The history of our nation is incredibly important. It needs to be understood, acknowledged, respected — all parts of it — and together we can use that to create the future. We can’t change the past, but we can understand it and work together to make a much better future,” he said.
The torrential rain failed to dampen the celebratory atmosphere at the launch which showcased major events planned for the bicentenary.
Linden bush poet Greg North performed his specially commissioned poem about the crossings while Wendy Blaxland, a descendant of Gregory Blaxland, introduced a world premiere performance of an excerpt of her play, Crossing.
The VIP audience was also treated to a performance of a brass fanfare composed by former Blue Mountains Grammar student Haydn Walker to mark the crossings bicentenary.
Other highlights included performances by Katoomba Theatre Company, Mulyang Dance Troupe, the Junior Rangers Choir and Blue Mountains Ukulele Group.
“I think its terrific that occasionally in our lives we get an opportunity to share in something, or contribute to something, that makes a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others,” said Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker,
For more information visit bluemountainscrossings.com.au.