“When Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet landed, first in Botany Bay and then in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), in January 1788, he was met by people who had lived in this land for many thousands of years. People belonged to small groups (territorial clans) through which they were spiritually related to specific tracts of land – these clans included the Gadigal.” “The Gadigal clan of the Eora Nation are the traditional custodians of the country on which the Parklands has been constructed.”
As the settlement of Sydney began to develop it became necessary to set aside common land on the outskirts of the town. On 5 October 1811, Governor Macquarie proclaimed the 490 acres to the south of South Head Road as the Sydney Common, for use by the public.
In 1866, the Sydney Common was given to the Municipal Council of Sydney for development under the Sydney Common Improvement Bill of 1866. Kippax Lake, located near the North East corner of Moore Park, is one of the only remnant reminders of the Sydney Common.
Charles Moore JP, the Mayor of Sydney from 1867 to 1869, worked on developing a public park for the recreation of the people of Sydney… Moore had overseen the construction of Randwick and Moore Park Roads and the creation of a public park incorporating the land around them. Charles Moore, Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens (not to be confused with Charles Moore JP, Mayor of Sydney) supplied the distinctive tree plantings.
More development began to be built in Moore Park. The Zoological Gardens were opened in 1879, on what is now the site of Sydney Boys’ and Sydney Girls’ High Schools.
Avenue and row planting along roadways quickly established a distinct park-like character for Moore Park between 1866 and the 1880s. Although tree species have changed over the years, this large scale pattern of avenue plantations enclosing playing fields remains a defining quality of Moore Park. The first of these plantations lined old Botany Road. It was renamed Randwick Road and was planted in 1868 with a double row of Norfolk Island Pines adjacent to the carriageway with an outer row of alternating Moreton Bay Figs and Monterey pines. The alternating row was extended around the northern periphery of the park. By 1917, the Randwick Road was widened, the Monterey Pines were failing due to competition from the figs, and JH Maiden directed their replacement with Port Jackson Figs. At the same time its name was changed to Anzac Parade, and an obelisk erected, the entrance gates moved and the centre planting bed installed.
When the war broke out in 1914, the Parklands (Centennial, Moore and Queen’s Parks) were used by the troops for military parade drills.
Members of the First Australian Imperial Force (later to become known as ANZACs - see Footnote) marched down Randwick Road (later renamed as Anzac Parade in their honour) from their barracks to Sydney Harbour. From here the first of the volunteers were transported to German New Guinea and later, battalions were sent to Europe.
It was in Moore Park near Kippax Lake that the soldiers bade farewell to their families and country.
“This photograph depicts troops, possibly of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, marching on Randwick Road for final embarkation on HMAS BERRIMA. The photograph was taken on 18 August 1914 looking at the corner of what was then Park Road, (now Moore Park Road), looking south along what was then Randwick Road (now Anzac Parade) in the Sydney suburb of Paddington. The troops comprised a small volunteer force of about 2,000 men, whose purpose was to seize and destroy German wireless stations in German New Guinea. HMAS BERRIMA departed Sydney the following day, on 19 August 1914 and the troops returned on 16 January 1915.”
The troops then marched down Oxford Street and through the city amidst cheering crowds – The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 19 August 1914:
"Despite the fact that nothing was published in the papers about the march, there were tens of thousands thronging the streets to see the first division of the great expeditionary force."
Australian soldiers march down Randwick Road from Kensington Racecourse to board troop ships at Circular Quay, 18 August 1914. (Source: Australian National Maritime Museum)
‘Our Troops March Through the City’, 19 August 1914, The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 12. nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1553085
During the war, in 1917, Randwick Road was widened and renamed Anzac Parade as Sydney’s most important boulevard to commemorate the ANZAC troops. A commemorative obelisk was erected at the northern end. There were already many trees lining the road along which the ANZACs marched. When the road was redesigned along more formal lines, the original trees were preserved and new ones planted to form a fitting commemorative site which was dedicated to the diggers’ memory.
"The time appears opportune to allot a suitable name for the improved Randwick Road" stated the Lord Mayor.....I suggest that it be called Anzac Parade......" He thought that the council should give to it its best road the best name in the English language at the present time.
Source: Trove. Daily Telegraph Sydney NSW 1883-1923 10th January 1917. Image: City of Sydney Archives
The ANZAC obelisk was erected at the head of Anzac Parade at Moore Park on 15th March 1917, less than a year after the inauguration of Anzac Day, to mark the opening of the remodelled roadway (Randwick Road) which had been renamed Anzac Parade in the diggers' honour. The obelisk is significant as being one of the earliest monuments dedicated to the role of the Anzacs of WWI, preceding the Martin Place Cenotaph (1927) and the Hyde Park War Memorial (1934).
Prior to the opening of the major official war memorials in Sydney (1934) and Canberra (1941), the Anzac Parade Memorial Obelisk was the diggers’ own war memorial. It marked the place where many of the battalions of volunteers who left Australia to fight had marched in 1914 past the cheering crowds, on their way from the Randwick barracks to the ships.
After 1917 the Obelisk on Anzac Parade was the focus for Anzac Day observances despite being located several kilometres from the city centre. The obelisk was fitted with hooks to hang wreaths. In the early 1920s returned soldiers mostly commemorated Anzac Day informally, primarily as a means of keeping in contact with each other, rather than in a major public way. But as time passed and they inevitably began to drift apart, the ex-soldiers perceived a need for an institutionalised reunion. Anzac Day began to take on a distinct form.
As the spirit of the Anzac legacy has become part of the Australian national identity such monuments are considered to have relevance to the sacrifices experienced in other theatres of war including WWII, Vietnam and current conflicts.
“...Based on its historic and social significance, and the high esteem in which the Australian community holds the memory of the Anzacs, the obelisk is assessed as having state significance.”
We believe the Obelisk may be Australia’s first and most significant war memorial for those who served and died in WW1. A year before the cessation of WW1, returned soldiers and their families began to gather at the Obelisk to remember the fallen and an annual tradition quickly took root. Throughout the 1920’s the children and families of the dead would gather to decorate and lay wreaths upon the Obelisk each Anzac Day. It is where the Anzac Day tradition began and grew. It was the diggers’ own memorial.
After 1917 the Anzac Parade Memorial Obelisk and surrounding Parklands were for the next ten years or so the focus for Anzac Day observances in Sydney.
“It has been the custom in former years for returned members of the Second Battalion to hold a service at the memorial on Anzac day, but this year all the members joined the larger function in the city. In the afternoon, without ceremony, they laid the customary wreath at the memorial.” (Sydney Morning Herald. 26 April 1928).
“As with all outdoor ceremonies the observance of the days significance at the Memorial Obelisk, Anzac Parade, was somewhat marred by rain. There was however a representative gathering of relatives and soldiers (many of the latter maimed).
A number of soldiers mostly from the First Infantry Brigade, mustered at Darlinghurst Junction and under Lt Jackson marched behind a Boy Scouts band to the monument. Here, in a brief address, Lt Colonel A.B. Stevens, who commanded the 2nd Battalion at Gallipoli, recounted the now historic movements of the Australian force from the time of its departure from Australia to the landing at the landing at Anzac Cove.” Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 1923
“The obelisk, forming the main feature of the monument, was decorated with wreaths and flowers, and presented a beautiful and inspiring spectacle. Surmounting it was a magnificent representation of the map of Australia, consisting of massed white chrysanthemums, upon which was emblazoned in purple clover blossoms the significant “A”. This symbol, as in past years, was made by the pupils of the Long Bay Public School.
At the base of the obelisk floral tribute were piled, every one bearing a card on which written words conveyed the sorrow and pride of relatives of a dead soldier. Some cards were in memory of a battalion, others the mingled emotions of Australia on her national day.
On account of its central position, the obelisk was the goal of many a pilgrimage from the city and neighbouring suburbs throughout the day, and late in the afternoon it was a mass of foliage, in which white predominated. With the electric arms also decorated, the monument resembled a white cross.
An interesting feature was the placing of emblems at the foot of the column by little children from a nearby clinic. Led by a couple no higher than the knee of an Anzac helping with the decorations, they marched twenty strong, across the wet roadway, and solemnly placed their tributes on the basal steps.” Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 1923
By the late 1920’s the big Anzac Day ceremonies were being held in the city near where the official war memorial in Hyde Park was being built. But the original diggers were still returning to
their own Anzac Parade memorial.
“The Anzac memorial at the entrance to Moore Park was bright with floral tributes. As on previous occasions a floral map of Australia formed the apex of the decorations and every inch of the obelisk was covered with wreaths: whilst across the roadway was stretched a line from which fluttered a multitude of silk ribbons, preserved from former occasions.”
Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 1928
Although their numbers were dwindling the tradition of marking Anzac Day at the Memorial Obelisk continued until the very end for the original diggers. It was their own memorial – the place past which they had marched as young men and the place to which they had returned throughout their lives to remember those who had fallen.
“Up until the last of the Anzacs there used to still be gatherings out at the Anzac Obelisk. As much as it was in the middle of the road, they would have little gatherings on the side of the road. So we see it as a memorial grove of trees, with the Anzac Parade as a pavement and a memorial called the Anzac Obelisk.” Rod White. State President. NSW RSL. Radio National 2016.
The Memorial Obelisk and its history has now been almost entirely forgotten
The word ANZAC was first used to refer to the men who landed at ANZAC Cove and fought at Gallipoli. Later it was used for any Australian or New Zealand soldier of the First World War. After Gallipoli, men who had served there wore a brass “A” on their colour patch to distinguish themselves as veterans of the campaign.
The obelisk is approximately 6m in height and stands on a stepped sandstone base. The lower portion of the monument (the plinth) consists of light-coloured sandstone masonry featuring a simple curved decorative motif at its top. The plinth features the name 'ANZAC PARADE' on its northern side in large bronze lettering, and is located above the plaque. A part of the Sydney Centennial Parklands memorials.