A piece of Hurstville’s literary heritage has found her way home with the statue of renowned Australian author, Miles Franklin, returned to MacMahon Street Courtyard as part of larger streetscape upgrade works.
The statue – created 20 years ago in 2003 by sculptor, Jacek Luszczyk – was placed onto its new plinth on a bench facing the heritage Ritz Hotel, rumoured to have been the early 20th Century Australian author and feminist’s favourite drinking spot.
“Miles Franklin was a trailblazer of her time who had deep roots in Georges River and is an important part of our cultural heritage – not just in Hurstville, but for Australia as a whole,” said Georges River Mayor, Sam Elmir.
“Her return symbolises a commitment to safeguarding the rich history embedded in the heart of Hurstville and is a tribute to Australia’s social and literary past.”
Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin was born on 14 October 1879 on a family homestead in the Monaro region of NSW and later moved to Sydney, with a stint in London before returning to live and work in the Georges River area. Her local ties include her former residence at Grey Street, Carlton, and an office in the Jolley’s building at Forest Road, Hurstville.
Franklin’s first novel, My Brilliant Career, was published in 1901 shortly after Australia’s Federation under the male pseudonym of Miles Franklin when the author was aged just 21.
Prior to its publication, the book’s manuscript had been repeatedly rejected by Australian publishers before Franklin sent it in desperation to bush poet Henry Lawson, who immediately recognised its worth.
The book has been described as capturing beautifully ‘the mood and spirit of the bush’ and has been credited as helping to ‘shape Australia’s perception of itself at a turning point in its history.’
At that time, Sir Edmund Barton was serving as Australia’s first Prime Minister and the country had just experienced the 1890s Depression. Suffragists in South Australia had recently fought for – and won – the right for women to vote in 1894, becoming one of the first places in the world to enfranchise women. By the year after the novel was published, the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 had granted most Australian women the right to vote and stand in federal elections.
Franklin’s book depicts a rebellious protagonist named Sybylla Melvyn – modelled on Miles herself – and her experience of rural life in late 19th Century Australia within the wider context of the emerging women’s suffrage movement.
Mayor Elmir welcomed Miles’ return to Hurstville and emphasised the importance of preserving pieces of Sydney’s cultural history for future generations to enjoy.
“The transformation of public spaces like MacMahon Street courtyard contributes to a sense of belonging, cultural vibrancy, and community wellbeing.
“The Miles Franklin statue standing tall once again serves as a timeless tribute to Australia’s literary legacy and as a beacon in the revitalised heart of Hurstville,” he said.
The statue was temporarily removed in 2021 during the recent rejuvenation of MacMahon Street courtyard and has been returned to its place in its 20th birthday year.
Some of Franklin’s published works include My Brilliant Career (1901), Some Everyday Folk and Dawn (1909), The Net of Circumstance (1915), Old Blastus of Bandicoot (1931), and All That Swagger penned in Hurstville in 1936.