Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard will become the 27th person to plant an oak in the Prime Ministers’ Corridor of the Oaks at Faulconbridge on July 27, 2017
The Corridor of Oaks honours the distinguished Australians who have led our nation since Federation and symbolises the continuity of the high office of prime minister in our democratic federation.
It also honours the memory and legacy of Sir Henry Parkes, Father of Federation, buried nearby.
This was the vision of Mr Joseph Jackson, MLA, former Lord Mayor of Sydney and resident of Faulconbridge who donated Jackson Park, part of Parkes’ original property, for the memorial corridor.
Jackson personally chose English oak because of its symbolic strength, durability and hardiness.
Then Prime Minister, Mr Joseph Lyons, planted the first tree on Wednesday, September 12, 1934 while touring the Blue Mountains. His planting was not accompanied by the elaborate ceremony that future plantings enjoyed.
According to the Sydney Sun, Lyons planted a golden wattle, announcing that “the spirit of Parkes lives still”. The Sydney Morning Herald stated that he planted a golden maple. Obviously, neither reporter knew his trees.
The next tree planting ceremony on Saturday, June 29,1935 was a much grander ceremony.
Four oaks were planted that day. Lady Barton was the first to plant a tree, assisted by her daughter Mrs Maughan, in honour of her late husband, the first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, who had died in 1920 at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath.
Lady Reid planted a tree for her late husband, Sir George Reid. Both Mr John Watson and Sir Joseph Cook planted their trees themselves.
Joseph Jackson envisaged a lasting, growing monument.
The next ceremony was held on Saturday, August 17, 1935 when Mr William M. Hughes planted the sixth tree. He spoke about the courage and tenacity which symbolised Australia from its foundation and begged that all Australians continue to have faith in the future of their country.
In 1939, the clouds of war were looming. Two ceremonies were held that year, firstly for Mr Stanley Bruce, later Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, in March and for Mr James Scullin and Mr Andrew Fisher, whose tree was planted by his wife, in September.
Bruce saw the corridor of oaks as a beacon of democracy.
Scullin remarked that the threatened democracy would prove triumphant over dictatorship, freedom over injustice and over lack of liberty and aggression.
Since 1939, all prime ministers have continued this tradition. With the planting of Ms Gillard’s oak, the corridor only needs trees for the two most recent prime ministers to be up to date.
Robyn Ridge is a member of Blue Mountains Historical Society.