Wednesday, 22nd August 2018
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of whale Colin.
The Australian public will today pause to recall those emotional days ten years ago when the abandoned baby whale Colin captured our hearts. His tragic death has since become as much a part of our nation’s psyche as Gallipoli or Don Bradman.
Rarely has this country witnessed the outpouring of emotion which followed Colin’s passing. His state funeral, the first ever for a marine mammal, was televised live to millions of viewers. Hundreds of thousands of Sydney-siders looked on silently as the funeral cortege proceeded along George Street to Martin Place, where Colin’s remains are now interred in a permanent memorial, The Tomb of the Unknown Whale.
In the aftermath of Colin’s passing, former NSW Premier Morris Iemma pushed legislation through state parliament renaming Pittwater to Colin’s Bay. As part of the same bill, the pristine waterway was zoned recreational and commercial, although plans for a state government operated theme park, “Colin World”, were permanently shelved following the assassination attempt which ended Mr Iemma’s political career.
Then came the musical tributes. John Williamson’s album My Mate Colin won an unprecedented nine ARIA awards. Colin: The Musical, a lavish stage production, opened at the State Theatre, starring John Wood as Colin and Rhonda Burchmore as Colin’s neglectful mother.
Colin’s image has been reproduced on postage stamps and has replaced Edith Cowan on the fifty dollar bank note, now known colloquially as “a Colin”.
An unexpected consequence of the Colin mania which gripped the nation a decade ago was the resurgence in popularity of Colin as a baby name. The effects of this are only now being felt. At one primary school on Sydney’s northern beaches nearly half the boys – and several girls – are named Colin, presumably a cause of great confusion in the classroom.
But today is a day not only for acknowledging Colin’s legacy, but also for looking to the future.
In a fitting tribute, Prime Minister Peter Garrett yesterday officially opened the Colin Whale Orphanage & Rehabilitation Facility, constructed on the former site of Kirribilli House. Built with funds diverted from the proposed upgrade to Sydney Children’s Hospital, this state-of-the-art centre will provide foster care for homeless and orphaned cetaceans.
The Prime Minister was visibly moved as he cut the ribbon to open the new facility. Addressing the assembled crowd of dignitaries, including Governor-General Sir Shane Warne, Mr Garrett trembled with emotion as he spoke. “What a special day it is today, as we celebrate the opening of this much-needed facility”, he began as a tear rolled down his cheek. “If only Colin was here to see this”.