By Ellen Hill
But admitting that we have not traversed the Mountains we have at all events proved that they are traversable and that too, by Cattle – a circumstance by which those who were allowed to possess some local knowledge of the Country had been (hitherto) deemed impossible…
Journal Of An Expedition Across The Blue Mountains, 11 May – 6 June 1813 By William Charles Wentworth, p. 13
Set against the majestic backdrop of Echo Point overlooking the Three Sisters, celebrations and commemorations to mark the first recognised European crossing of the Blue Mountains were officially launched on Saturday, February 23.
NSW Governor Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir was guest of honour at the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary 2013-2015 program of events launch.
The exclusive event at the culturally significant and visually magnificent Echo Point was also attended by Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles, Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage and Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus, community leaders, Aboriginal representatives and tourism industry stakeholders.
After the Welcome to Country, the invitation-only guests were entertained with live performances to showcase upcoming events, including the Mulyang Dance Troupe, Crossing the Blue Mountains fanfares for brass by Haydn Walker, champion bush poet Gregory North who performed his How Far We’ve Come poem, the NPWS Junior Rangers Choir, Blue Mountains Ukulele Group performance of Our Australia, an excerpt from Crossing! by descendant Wendy Blaxland and the Blue Mountains Blue Wave crossing re-enactment team.
Led by Blue Mountains City Council, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism, and Businesses Supporting Bicentenary the mammoth bicentenary project will involve Penrith, Hawkesbury, Bathurst and Lithgow councils and their local tourism organisations, Central NSW Tourism and numerous community groups.
Among the highlights will be Australia’s largest ever flyover with more than 200 aircraft and an authentic 21-day Blue Mountains Blue Wave re-enactment of the crossing event in May.
Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “The first recognised European crossing of the Blue Mountains by the Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth party in 1813 was a monumental moment in our nation’s early colonial history.
“It successfully averted the abandonment of the colony, enabling access to fertile plains in the west.
“The crossing is comparable in importance to the discovery of this land by Captain James Cook in 1770 and the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.’’
Mr Walker also acknowledged the involvement in the bicentenary plans of Aboriginal representatives, particularly Darug and Gundungurra members and Uncle Graeme Cooper who had been an integral part of the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary Committee.
From the colony’s inception in 1788 at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), the Blue Mountains represented an impenetrable barrier of sandstone and scrub: both a natural containment for the colony’s convict inhabitants and an obstacle to the much-needed resources required to feed them.
However, in just three years (from 1813 to 1815), European settlers broke through the barrier, constructed a road linking the colony to the western plains and founded the colony’s first major inland town of Bathurst.
Blue Mountains Blue Wave costumed re-enactment instigator John O’Sullivan said he was excited to help celebrate and commemorate one of the most momentous events in Australia’s history.
“We have a gift and we only have it because of these explorers and their party. We live in a place unparalleled anywhere else in the world and I want to acknowledge Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth and their whole party because I don’t think they were properly rewarded or honoured in their day.
“We have the opportunity to be the soul of the nation for 21 days. It’s really important to us as a people. This is our opportunity to showcase who we are at this present time.’’
Part of the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary 2013-2015 program will include the distribution of commemorative Holey Dollar coins to every school student in the Blue Mountains and the commissioning of busts of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth to be installed in the town bearing their name.