Sir Robert Askin
Wandering through the peaceful grounds of the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens you will find the memorial dedicated to Sir Robert Askin, located within the Lower Island of the grounds. The memorial plaque sits amidst an array of beautifully manicured shrubbery, and stands as a place of reflection, and commemoration of the life of Sir Robert Askin and his great impact on Australian politics during his lifetime. This modest tribute to Sir Robert seems perfectly at home here, cradled by nature's beauty.
Sir Robert William Askin (1907-1981), stands tall in Australian political history as the 32nd Premier of New South Wales and the pioneering leader of the Liberal Party in that capacity from 1965 to 1975.
As visitors tread the well-maintained pathways, they often pause, drawn to this spot where history mingles with tranquillity.
A Man of Dedication, Service, and Bravery
Born to Ellen Halliday and William Askin, he hailed from Sydney, growing up in Glebe and attending Glebe Public. Venturing into the professional realm, Askin took a clerical position with the Government Savings Bank of NSW in 1922. His dedication saw him rise to manage the bank's service department by 1940. During this time, he showcased a commitment to his nation, serving as a Lieutenant in the 55th Battalion of the Citizens Military Forces between 1925 and 1929.
In the backdrop of WWII, Askin enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force in 1942. His tenure witnessed a brave service in New Guinea, culminating in his ascent to the rank of Sergeant. In 1937 he married Mollie Underhill, a fellow bank employee.
Championing Public Welfare and Navigating Controversies as the Premier of New South Wales
Politically, the winds of change beckoned Askin post-war. He actively championed the Liberal Party's cause, ultimately securing the seat of Collaroy in 1950. Political tussles, leadership struggles, and electoral defeats were mere hurdles, as Askin, with the media backing of Frank Packer, won the Premiership in 1965. Notably, Askin's tenure as Premier was marked by progressive reforms. His government tackled trading-hours restrictions, introduced consumer laws, health labels on cigarette packs, breath-testing, vehicular emission standards, liquor law liberalisation, and more, showcasing a keen focus on public welfare. Furthermore, he was pivotal in environment conservation, exemplified by the establishment of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Yet, the Premier's tenure was not without controversies. Askin's tenure saw the tumultuous exit of Jorn Utzon, the Sydney Opera House architect, and controversial infrastructural developments that threatened Sydney's heritage. The 1970s Green ban movement and the international attention garnered during US President Lyndon Johnson's visit highlighted the multifaceted challenges of Askin's leadership.
Loyal, Reliable and Committed
His stellar contributions were duly recognised, with honours such as an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Sydney in 1966, the Order of St Peter and St Paul in 1972 for services to ethnic minorities, and the Knight Grand Cross for his unparalleled service as Premier. His indelible mark on NSW remains a testament to his commitment and service. The state mourned the loss of this loyal and reliable leader when he passed away from heart failure on September 9, 1981.