SenSueBoyce thumbnail   On Tuesday 25 June 2013, Senator Sue Boyce addressed the Australian parliament. Not for the first time was Leichhardt's name written into the public record, but it was fitting that he should be remembered on this occasion by a Queenslander. In a wide-ranging speech, Sen. Boyce canvassed some of the range of activities set down for the Bicentenary year ~ with particular reference to a project close to her own heart.

I would like to talk to the Senate this evening about Ludwig Leichhardt. This year is the bicentenary of his birth on 23 October 2013. Ludwig Leichhardt was of course a legendary explorer and naturalist. Very much due to the efforts of our ambassador to Germany, Mr Peter Tesch, who is a proud Queenslander of German heritage, this event will be celebrated in Australia, especially throughout Queensland, and in Germany. My office has been taking part in these historical celebrations. But firstly, before we talk about the celebrations themselves, I would like to provide some background about the enigmatic, eccentric but very gifted Leichhardt.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt was born in Prussia, one of eight children. He studied philosophy, languages and natural sciences in Prussia and in Berlin but never received a university degree. He moved to England in 1837, continued his studies in the natural sciences and undertook fieldwork in several European countries, including France, Italy and Switzerland. Saying that he continued his studies is something of an understatement. I suspect that, were Ludwig Leichhardt around today, he would have a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. He was quite manic in his efforts to pursue education and learning.

At the age of 29, Leichhardt arrived in Sydney, determined to explore the inland reaches of Australia. Here he led three major expeditions. But it was his epic journey of 4,800 kilometres in 1844 and 1845, during which he travelled from the Darling Downs to Port Essington, north-west of Darwin, that cemented him in the annals of history in Australia and in the annals of exploration worldwide.

It needs to be remembered that Ludwig Leichhardt had poor eyesight and no bush skills at all, but he was perhaps the best trained person in the natural sciences to ever explore in Australia. Leichhardt was the first European to see large tracts of inland Queensland and the first European to cross through this territory. For the colonists, Australia was virtually completely unexplored, apart from the settlements clustered around the eastern coastline at that time. The interior, to these settlers, was a vast and mysterious blank.

Ludwig's contribution to Queensland's geological understanding and his discovery of new species of flora and fauna is immeasurable. His detailed journals and scientific legacy are still being researched and appreciated. His discoveries included coal seams and serious geological formations in Queensland. During this first expedition he came across a large river, which he named the Burdekin River after a woman who had donated to his expedition.

During the 1844-45 expedition, Leichhardt passed through the current Queensland federal electorates of Groom, Flynn, Dawson, Kennedy, Maranoa, Capricornia and Leichhardt. This is what I have based my involvement in the bicentenary celebrations on. To mark Ludwig Leichhardt's bicentenary, I have organised an essay and drawing competition for high school students in mainstream and special schools in those electorates, and drawing competitions for primary school students in mainstream and special schools in those electorates.

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