To mark the centenary of the federation of Australian and by way of celebration of the close historical and cultural links which exist between Australia and the United Kingdom the UK proposed that a Magna Carta Monument to be erected in Canberra “as a commemoration of Freedom under the Law”.
The UK’s proposal (converted to a gift) was accepted and Magna Carta Place, close to Old Parliament House, was dedicated by the Hon. Sir Gerard Brennand, the Chief Justice of Australia, on 12 October 1997 – the 700th anniversary of the sealing, by King Edward I, of the 1297 issue of Magna Carta. An original copy of this document is on display in (New) Parliament House. See my separate review of this famous document
A 1215/16 version of Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English king, King John, by a group of his subjects (the barons) in an attempt to limit his powers and protect their rights.
The Monument pays tribute to Magna Carta (the Great Charter), as the document which laid the foundation for much of the British system of government and which played a part in developing the United Nation’s human rights instruments, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Chapter 29 (other chapters less relevant nowadays) of Magna Carta states “No freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his free tenement or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go against such a man or send against him save by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell, or deny or delay right or justice”.
This chapter is recorded in Latin around the copper canopy of the rotunda while inlaid in brass into the rotunda floor are the words “Equality. Freedom. Trial by Jury. Justice. Rule of Law.”
Magna Carta is now seen as a traditional mandate for trial by jury, justice for all, accountable government and no arbitrary imprisonment. These rights and others from Magna Carta have been enshrined in the Australian constitution.
The images on the monument are taken from medieval documents and convey values and principles still relevant to today’s society.
While not a particularly stunning monument it is certainly worth a look if you are in the area.
Address: Langton Cres, Parkes, ACT 2600
Directions: About 250 metres to the west of Old Parliament House – next to the Old Parliament House Senate Rose Gardens.