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Where is Australia’s first prime minister?

Thirty years after Edmund Barton’s death, few people knew where he was buried.

Early in May 1951 a man who lived next door to Sydney’s South Head cemetery sent a telegram congratulating Robert Menzies on his election win, and suggesting that as ‘Jubilee Prime Minister’ he arrange to honour the founding prime minister.

Arrangements – including locating the gravesite – were quickly made. On 9 May 1951, 50 years after the opening of the first Commonwealth parliament, WM Hughes (the only member of that parliament still living) laid a wreath on the grave of Edmund and Jane Barton.

Eighteen months after this ceremony, the ‘last living thread’ with the founding of the nation was severed when Hughes died, at the age of 90.

The grave of Sir Edmund Barton

The grave of Sir Edmund Barton.

NAA: A6180, 10/9/73/5

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Did you know ...

While 'Prime Minister', 'Premier', and 'Chief Minister' all mean the same thing – the 'first' or 'chief' minister, who heads a government – in Australia they are used differently. Heads of government in the six states are Premiers, and only the head of the federal government is called 'Prime Minister'. In Australia's self-governing territories, each head of government is called the 'Chief Minister'.

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