Centennial Park is no ordinary park. It is one of the birthplaces of our nation, a touchstone of the development of Sydney and an open green space enjoyed by millions of visitors each year.
It’s one of the best loved parks in Australia. I’ve spent much of my life at different times here - as a little boy , running with my father, as a dad and now, as a granddad. So I know every nook and cranny, every tree.
It can be a place of quiet reflection at the labyrinth, of loud sporting triumph on its many ovals or a site of regeneration and exercise.
And it is held in Trust for all of us. We are its beneficiaries but we must also be its guardians.
That's why I urged NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman to have the Centennial Park Trust seek National Heritage listing for Centennial Park.
This will place it alongside other iconic items of our built and natural heritage, like the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park and Fraser Island.
National Heritage listing would ensure greater protection and recognition of Centennial Park’s historic significance. If approved, it would allow protection under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, and any actions that affected its heritage values would have to be considered by the Federal Environment Minister.
It is important recognition of Centennial Park’s role in the birth of the nation.
On January 1, 1901, tens of thousands of Australians gathered there to witness the proclamation of the Federal Constitution and watch the swearing in of our first Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The Federation Pavilion which stands on that spot today and houses the Federation Stone, is a modern tribute to this triumph.
It is fitting that this significant event in our nation’s history was held at Centennial Park, part of the Sydney Common originally set aside by that great builder, Governor Lachlan Macquarie and of course, as its name implies, originally established by Sir Henry Parkes to celebrate the centenary of the establishment of the British colony at Sydney Cove in 1788.
A great city needs great parks. Unless they are set aside in the city’s youth, they are hard to retrofit after development has taken over.
And once established they need to be jealously protected - as the city grows those green, open spaces are more precious than ever.
Centennial Park is a precious place and we must cherish and protect it and that is a responsibility for us all.
Its listing on the National Heritage List will provide an extra level of protection for now and for generations to come.