Sir John Gorton Sculpture

Project Type
Design and Construction
Completion Date
March 2021
Temporary Road or Lake Closures

The National Capital Authority (NCA) managed the installation of a sculpture and interpretative sign commemorating Sir John Gorton, adjacent the southern forecourt of the John Gorton Building in Parkes, ACT.

For more information on the Sir John Gorton sculpture, click here.


In recent years, the National Capital Authority has undertaken a forecourt renewal project adjacent to the John Gorton Building on behalf of the Department of Finance.

Works to date have included the renewal of the southern forecourt and membrane replacement work for the basement offices in the building.

The works contemplated provision of a sculpture of Sir John Gorton, subject to sufficient project funding remaining available.

The concept for the sculpture, including Sir John with his collie-kelpie, Suzie Q, was developed in consultation with the Gorton family. Melbourne based Sculptor Lis Johnson was commissioned to develop the design and sculpt the final, full size bronze work.

Information regarding the proposed design and siting of the statue was provided to both Houses of the Australian Parliament and the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, with no concerns raised. The motion to approve the works passed the House of Representatives on 28 November 2019 and the Senate on 2 December 2019.

The sculpture was unveiled on Wednesday 10 March, commemorating Gorton’s 50th Anniversary of concluding his Prime Ministerial service.

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Sir John’s sculpture being fitted into place ahead of the official unveiling with sculptor Lis Johnson at the base.

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Sir John’s sons, Michael (seated) and Robin (standing) Gorton who, with their families, attended the official unveiling of the sculpture in Canberra on Wednesday 10 March 2021.

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Sir John’s grandaughters L-R Anna and Maudie Gorton during the official unveiling with the Hon Nola Marino MP, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories on Wednesday 10 March 2021.

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Robin Gorton inspects the progress of the clay model of Sir John’s sculpture in Melbourne early 2020.

Sir John Gorton

With his American wife Bettina, née Brown, he took up his father’s orange orchard near Kerang in northern Victoria, where they raised three children. Winning a Victorian Senate seat in 1949, Gorton’s lengthy portfolio responsibilities included serving as Minister for the Navy, Works, and Education and Science.

The Liberal Party Room elected Gorton leader following Harold Holt’s disappearance and John McEwen’s transitional Prime Ministership. Gorton became the only Australian senator to assume the highest office. In a by-election shortly thereafter he won Holt’s House of Representatives seat.

Intelligent, determined, straight-talking, unashamedly egalitarian, Gorton was a controversial and progressive leader. He wanted the nation, and his party, to develop a more independently Australian culture and way of thinking.

Gorton served in the Royal Australian Air Force in WWII. He suffered severe injuries in a crash landing at Bintan Island, Indonesia; his rescue ship was torpedoed. In 1946, giving a speech at Mystic Park to other returned service personnel, he defined his political credo: to create ‘a world in which meanness and poverty, tyranny and hate, have no existence’.

Gorton’s national rather than state-based policy perspective evolved Commonwealth powers, social services, resource protection and external defence commitments.

Self-described as ‘Australian to the boot-heels’, Gorton was always happy to say hello and stop for a chat while out walking his beloved collie-kelpie Suzie Q. In 1993, a decade after Bettina’s death, he married Nancy Home.

Gorton held the position of Prime Minister for three years, until 10 March 1971.

Photo below: Lady Nancy Gorton sitting beside Sir John Gorton’s sculpture at the formal unveiling on Wednesday 10 March 2021, situated to one side of the John Gorton Building in Parkes, Canberra.

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