FORMER Prime Minister, the Honourable Tony Abbott MP, visited Ballarat’s Botanical Gardens on Monday to officially unveil a bronze bust of himself the latest addition to Ballarat’s famed Prime Ministers Avenue.
The bronze is the work of Sydney-based sculptor Linda Klarfeld, the first female sculptor to have her work displayed in the Prime Ministers Avenue. The Prime Ministers Avenue is a feature of national significance, displaying bronze portrait busts of each of the previous 27 Prime Ministers of Australia. Mr Abbott’s portrait will be the 28th to be added to the Avenue. The Avenue was officially opened by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Winston Dugan on March 2, 1940, who unveiled the busts of the first six Prime Ministers of Australia. The first twelve busts in the Prime Ministers Avenue were a gift to the people of Ballarat from prominent local benefactor and Member of Parliament, Richard Armstrong Crouch who left a further bequest to ensure the continuation of the Avenue after his death.
Ballarat City Council now takes responsibility for these commissions. In her address to the large audience Ms Klarfeld said she was honoured to be a part of ‘this amazing place’, adding it had been an amazing experience. Her sculptures include a statue of Dr Victor Chang, a sculpture of St Mary McKillop and ‘Expressions of Love’ the centrepiece of the Hunter Valley Gardens. Ms Klarfeld said that when she first meets her sitter she likes to make a ‘mini bust’ of them while they are talking and she is getting to know the subject.
“I like to take about an hour to do this – I was told I had 30 minutes with Mr Abbott,” she said. “We went up to the office and there were two personal assistants and I thought oh no, it’s already exciting and nerve wracking and I will have to ask some deep and meaningful questions and they are going to throw me out. “The door opened and there was the Hon. Tony Abbott and now let me define the word attractive – something or someone who holds your interest and from a sculptors point of view Mr Abbott has a wonderful face to sculpt but not only that, as a person I found him very charismatic and great fun and a very intelligent man – and most of all I didn’t get half an hour with him, I got an hour and a half.” Mr Abbott said it was good to see so many people who appreciate what the City is doing to celebrate people who are having a go for our country. “That indeed that is what all prime ministers strive to do – to make our country better,” he said. “Inevitably at the time it’s full of controversy, often mired in descent but as time passes it is usually possible to see more clearly the good people were trying to achieve and to appreciate better the ideals of duty and service, which motivate all those in public life. “Poli-bashing is Australia’s national sport, unlike the cricket and football is goes all year round and yet here, in this great City, there is an appropriate and suitable anecdote to poli-bashing, this Avenue of Prime Ministers – not exactly an avenue of heroes but certainly neither a parade of villains either.”