Abbey tribute for a humanitarian pioneer

04 July 2014

A MEMORIAL carved from Sydney sandstone, and engraved with a kangaroo, will be dedicated in Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, in celebration of the "founder of modern Australia".

The British-Australia Society Educational Trust has been working for two years to establish a fitting tribute to Admiral Arthur Phillip, who led the First Fleet of 11 ships to Australia in 1788, to establish a penal colony in what became Sydney. He was the first Governor of New South Wales. This year marks the 200th anniversary of his death.

Last week, Sir Christopher Benson, chairman of the Trust, described the lack of recognition afforded to Admiral Phillip as "incomprehensible. . . His efforts in identifying the best site for the resettlement of Sydney and giving all those in his governorship fair treatment have gone unnoticed for too long."

The Trust wants to draw attention to Admiral Phillip's reputation as a humanitarian who opposed slavery, and who ordered that every one of his passengers - convicts, sailors, officials, and their wives - should receive the same rations. Admiral Phillip had a strong interest in nutrition, and not a single passenger died from scurvy. As Governor, he ordered that the Aboriginal people be well treated. He took with him the Revd Richard Johnson as chaplain of the First Fleet, and a Bible, which has since been signed by visiting members of the royal family.

Sir Christopher said that Admiral Phillip's legacy would be ensured by a scholarship scheme, established by the Trust, which will enable young people to conduct exchanges between the United Kingdom and Australia. These will include apprenticeships as well as university courses. "It will cement relationships between two great nations."

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