Two centuries ago today, the fifth governor of NSW, Lachlan Macquarie, rode through the Goulburn region with his entourage. That visit marks the beginning of European settlement in Goulburn, Australia's first inland city.
The present state governor, H.E. the Hon. Margaret Beazley AC QC, returned to unveil a plaque and plant a commemorative cabbage gum tree (Eucalyptus amplifolia) near Lansdowne Bridge.
"It seemed to me this tree was a very fitting tribute to the people of Goulburn," Ms Beazley said. "They too have been here for centuries - 50 or 60,000 years, continuously. Majestic; elegant; adaptable from multi-traditional and overseas nations; epitomising every opportunity that this wonderful city and region offers."
The Governor was accompanied by her husband, barrister Dennis Wilson. Their visit is part of Goulburn 2020, a program of plays, workshops, and talks commemorating Macquarie's visit.
On this day in 1820, Goulburn 2020 organiser Jennifer Lamb OAM said, Macquarie - accompanied by at least 12 men, horses and carriages, and heavy baggage carts - climbed over the Cookbundoon Ranges, and through Wild's Pass - part of the road ex-convict architect Joseph Wild was building to Bathurst across the Blue Mountains. There, they were met by local Indigenous man Nagaray and his family.
Macquarie had been directed to find ways and means to feed the colony, Ms Beazley said in her speech. Lord Castlereagh, secretary of state for the colonies, had charged Macquarie with finding a way to "increase the agriculture and stock, so as to ensure the certainty of a full supply to the inhabitants under all circumstances".
Macquarie was struck by the "beauty, richness, and grandeur" of the countryside, the treeless plains, the abundant fruit, and the thousands of acres that would provide huge potential for grazing and cultivation. On his return to Sydney, Macquarie published notices allowing sheep and cattle to be pastured in the area - "the beginning of waves of migration into what we now know as the Southern Tablelands," Ms Beazley said.
Goulburn was founded in 1833, and was proclaimed a city by Queen Victoria through letters patent in 1863. Post-war immigration, Ms Beazley continued, brought new people to the area. Today, the city has a population of 31,000, and is expected to grow to 33,500 by 2041.
Later, Mayor Bob Kirk said with pride that Goulburn has had a sustained 1 per cent rate of growth every year for the last decade, while the number of residential building DAs has increased 50 per cent since last year.
Ms Beazley spoke warmly of the thriving city, but recognised that European settlement had meant Indigenous suffering.
"Today is a very special day," the Governor said. "But we have to remember that the lives of the traditional peoples here, with their unique cultures, were forever changed...
"Lachlan Macquarie's stamp of approval for this region as suitable for increased settlement and agriculture is the genesis of what we have here today: a very strong and economically and artistically vibrant community. But it did come at the expense of the disruption of the lives and the culture of the traditional custodians, the destruction of their food sources, and the introduction of diseases.
"A day such as this recognizes vision; it recognizes ingenuity and growth, alongside that destruction and loss - but now, I trust, also with respect, with friendship, with resilience, and with relearning."
That friendship and willingness to learn were evident. Opal O'Neill, chairperson for the Pejar Local Aboriginal Land Council, gave a welcome to country, to which Ms Beazley replied in Gadigal (the Indigenous language of Sydney, where she was born).
"The very strong role that the Land Council has taken in preserving, re-finding and retelling us the indigenous history is very important," Ms Beazley said later. "Unless we recognise all parts of our history, we're not going to be a coherent nation. The fact that we are learning as much about the history pre-1820 as we are after 1820 is very important. We should keep doing that."
Ms Lamb presented the Governor with an 1820 commemorative bulletin published by the Historical Society, and a booklet about the Aboriginal explorer guides - many of whom Macquarie overlooked in his diaries and letters.
Ms Lamb later said: "I thought it was really lovely that [Macquarie's] successor 200 years later made a particular note of the Aboriginal people who had always been here, and whose land it was and still is. ... It's good Goulburn's coming to terms [with its Aboriginal past]."
Mayor Kirk welcomed the gubernatorial party to the ceremony. Mr Kirk later said: "This visit highlights what an important place Goulburn has in the history of Australia. I was particularly encouraged by her words and those of Mr Wilson in relation to their vision or their expectation for the future of Goulburn, which is equally as bright as its history."
Also present were deputy mayor Cr Peter Walker; Crs Carol James and Leah Ferrara; council general manager Warwick Bennett; the Very Reverend Phillip Saunders, Dean of the Cathedral of St Saviour's; and other members of the Goulburn 2020 committee.
Mrs Wendy Tuckerman MP, member for Goulburn, and the member for Hume, Angus Taylor MP, were unable to attend; both were in Parliament today. Mr Taylor was represented by his wife, Louise.
Earlier in the morning, the Governor was taken on a tour of of the Cathedral of St Saviour's by Dean Saunders. Ms Beazley was greatly impressed by the cathedral, which she called an exquisite Australian treasure.
After the ceremony, the Governor visited the new museum at the Rocky Hill War Memorial - her first visit in person, although she was taken on a virtual tour in June. On the way, Ms Beazley passed by East Goulburn Public School, where the children waved enthusiastically to her.
This was Her Excellency's third formal visit to Goulburn since becoming Governor of NSW last year. "On the very day of my swearing-in, on May 2 last year," she reminded her listeners, "I was thrown into the vice-regal carriage - a silver Holden Caprice - and just like Governor Macquarie, we made our way down what has become the Hume to attend an attestation parade at the Goulburn Police Academy the following morning."
Last year, the Governor visited Goulburn for the 150th anniversary of rail in Goulburn, a century and a half after then-governor Lord Belmore opened the Great Southern Railway through the city in 1869. On that visit, Mr Wilson planted a tree in Belmore Park.
Ms Beazley said that one of the great attractions of Goulburn was its history. "The vibrancy and love of the history in this place - including Indigenous history - is probably what makes it very, very special." She urged the Goulburn community: "Keep on discovering!"