Robert O'Hara Burke statue

Public Art : Robert O'Hara Burke statue

Sculptor: ©


Date Unveiled: c1891

Location: The Robert O'Hara Burke statue is located in a niche on the Bridge Street facade of the Department of Lands Building, Bridge Street, Sydney, Australia.

So Who Was Robert O'Hara Burke? : Robert O'Hara Burke (6th May, 1820 or 1821– c.28th June, 1861) was an Irish soldier, police officer and eventual explorer in Australia. Unfortunately Burke will be most remembered for his ill fated expedition with William John Wills in their attempt to be the first to cross Australia from south to north.

Burke was born in County Galway, Ireland, to James Burke, an officer in the British army and his wife, Anne. Following in his father's footsteps he entered the Royal Military Academy at the age 14 but when he failed his exams he toddled off to Belgium to continue his studies. At the age of 20 he joined the Austrian army and was posted in Italy. In 1848 he resigned from the Austrian army after debts and AWOL charges against him were dropped.

Burke next tried a career with the Irish police force (Irish Constabulary) in which he was extremely successful.

However, still restless, in 1853 he decided to migrate to Australia. He initially landed in Tasmania but soon decided to travel to Melbourne to join the newly established police force. In 1856, when he got word of his brother's death in the Crimean War, Burke left Australia to enlist in the British Army however the war had ended by the time he arrived and promptly returned.

He continued in the police force and attended the Buckland Valley riots against the Chinese gold miners. However his world was about to change when he heard that the South Australian parlaiment were offering a £2,000 reward for the promotion of an expedition to cross the continent following John McDouall Stuart's successful journey to the centre of Australia.

In June 1860, Burke was appointed to lead the Victorian Exploring Expedition with William John Wills, 17 men, 27 camels and 23 horses.


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