Why haven’t many of us heard of this once-great Australian politician and his outstanding achievements?
As a grey nomad who spends much of his time travelling this wonderful country of ours I am often amazed by the number of stories I stumble across simply crying out to be told. To me, this is one of them.
During one of my regular visits to Queensland’s idyllic Capricorn Coast I paid a visit to the tiny Museum in Emu Park. It’s a small Museum and easily missed, even though Emu Park (no emus) is a very small place. Here, there’s a small monument, plaque and supporting literature about the life and achievements of King O’Malley.
His story reads something like this: At the age of 35, and dying of Tuberculosis, King O’Malley was left to die on the beach at Emu Park. It was 1888 and it is thought that he had just arrive by ship from California. A local aborigine named Coowonga stumbled across him and over the next two years gradually brought him back to good health on a diet of oysters, kangaroos, Burdekin plums and fish. When O’Malley’s health was restored, both O’Malley and Coowonga walked the fifty or more kilometres into Rockhampton whereupon they finally parted company. From here O’Malley undertook the arduous task of walking a further 4,400 kilometres to Adelaide arriving there in 1893.
In 1896 he entered South Australian politics as member for Encounter Bay for one term after which he moved to Tasmania in 1901 and shortly thereafter served two terms as Federal Minister for Home Affairs. He left politics in 1917 but during this time he campaigned vigorously for the establishment of a Peoples Bank – hence he became known as the father of the Commonwealth Bank.
He was also the “leading light” in the establishment of our nation’s new capital city, Canberra. You will see him on old film clips hammering in the ceremonial stake into the ground at the new City’s Commencement Ceremony. He is also credited with the establishment of our Trans-Continental Railway which crosses or nation from east to west and with the establishment of Australia House in London.
He died in 1953 just 6 months short of his one hundredth birthday and 65 years after being left for dead on the beach at Emu Park.
Considering the appalling decisions and characters of many of our current and more recent politicians, who are simply serving themselves and their parties’ interests, any advancement of our nation has been greatly lacking in recent years.
So yes, Australia is in dire need of another King…King O’Malley.
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