Critchley Parker 1911-41

In the late 1930s, the British Zionist League attempted to find a homeland for Jews fleeing fascist Europe. The Kimberleys in Australia were seriously considered as a possibility, until denied by the Curtin government. Tasmanians were particularly keen to welcome the Jews, especially a young man Critchley Parker, who went off solo to survey the land for the future Jerusalem, only to die in the south-west wilderness, leaving his last diary entries as legacy to his vision.

''Nothing will develop persons more than sport, as exemplified by the Greeks with their athletic and literary contests. In Australia nothing is more likely to interest people in the Jewish settlement than such an institution. It might ultimately occupy the same place in Australian life as the Olympic Games in Hellenic life…'

In Critchley's mind the concept of 'games' was to include the reading of poetry, 'oratorical contests, musical performances, exhibitions of painting and sculpture, weaving, tapestry, pottery and books. Annual shows would also be held, representative of all brances of the communitie's activities. Other Tasmanian industries should be encouraged to display their wares; this should be done at the Community's own expence, so that the perfect amity and accord existing between the Jewish settlement and the Tasmanians be emphasised in this practical way. Later, other states of the Commonwealth and other countries should be encouraged to come here, so as ultimately to make the equivalent of the Leipzig Fair. This could be called the Pacific Fair. American Jewry will be most useful here.'



'The real wealth of the community will be its people, and I desire that their whole life will so amaze the people of Australia that the little Settlement of Tasmania wil be the leaven which will completely change the economic and financial system of Australia…'
'You must come to this country and see the mountains of Port Davey as I have seen them, now clear and shining in the summer sun, now enshrouded with mist and snow. You must see, too, the inlets and bays, the five rivers that flow into it, and climb Mount Mackenzie, at whose foot I camped. You will realise what a magnificent centre this will be for a settlement, one of the finest harbours in Australia, a country rich in mineral wealth and water power that the prosperous parts of the Commonwealth. I have said to Mother that I hope my name will live in this project, so she will render any assistance she can…

Isaac Steinberg (1888 - 1957) Australia - The Unpromised Land: In Search Of A Home London: Victor Gollancz, 1948, p. 143

From his final diary entries:

It is at Port Davey that I hope the Jewish settlement will start, not far from where I sever all earthly connections with it… to die in the service of so noble a cause is to me a great satisfaction and if, as I hope, the settlement brings happiness to many refugees and in so doing serves the state of Tasmania, I die happy..

Hilary L. Rubenstein 'Critchley Parker (1911-42): Australian Martyr for Jewish Refugees' Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, 11, pp. 56-860, p. 66

Caroline Isaacson, the Melbourne journalist who inspired Critchley Parker's quest to find a homeland for the Jewish refugees.
Clyde Clayton, who discovered Critchley Parker's body in a sleeping bag, where it had been untouched for three months.
Mary and Qug King, who grew up around Port Davey as members of the only family in the area. Mary's grandfather took Critchley Parker by boat out to the area he wanted to explore.

The description of Port Davey in the south-west corner of Tasmania had conveyed almost a sense of cosiness. Nothing was further from the reality. An eternity of ocean, an infinity of mountains, many still unnamed, endless swathes of impenetrable bush intersected by a multitude of rivers mostly also unnamed, lay between Melaleuca and the rest of the world. It was the end of the world.

On a day of sparkling blue skies and bright sunlight it was an artist's palette of colours, bewitchingly beautiful. But when the gales swept in from the south-west, driving the pregnant rain clouds before them, that world was reduced to gathered greys. Waves and water sulked, like tarnished silver. Mighty mountains became stark silhouettes, slopes shrouded with sheets of rain or streaked with showers. Grey upon gloomy grey, layer upon lowering layer, a world which had lost its light.

Christobel Mattingley King Of The Wilderness: The Life Of Deny King Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2001, p. 115

  • Travel to the site of Critchley Parker's demise
  • The scheme for finding safe haven for European Jewry in Australia
  • See ABC 7:30 report with Adam Rovner and Richard Flanagan