8 September - Honours and Awards under the Australian Honours System
Kaye and I welcome warmly to Government House today recipients of awards under the Australian honours system, their proud families, friends and colleagues, and our special guests.
To the Turrbal and Jagera peoples, who have traditionally been the custodians of the lands around Brisbane, I at once extend respectful greetings.
This is an important day for everyone here and for the broader community. Investiture ceremonies are a substantial element of the civic and ceremonial roles and responsibilities of being Governor of Queensland. This may be only Kaye’s and my second investiture, however these celebrations are already among our most cherished since my swearing-in as your Governor just over one month ago.
Last week on Monday, Kaye and I had the pleasure of attending Wattle Day celebrations at Parliament House. Wattles have long held special meaning for Australians, and this was officially recognised in 1988 when the golden wattle was gazetted as Australia’s national floral emblem. It now sits alongside other national symbols including our colours (green and gold), the national anthem, the opal and our Australian flags, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags. Nationally, Wattle Day commemorates that wattle – or acacia – is an instant and unique identifier of all things ‘Australian’, including the much-lauded Australian generosity of spirit (which, as today demonstrates, continues to flourish in our communities).
I mention this for two reasons: firstly, if you take a close look at the actual medals our AO, AM and OAM recipients received today, the central insignia is circled by two gold sprigs of mimosa, and the medal is hung from a royal blue ribbon with a central band of mimosa blossoms. Mimosa and wattle are closely related, coming from the same subfamily of Fabaceae (FAB-A-SEE), and they share many characteristics, including in their much-adored appearance, and have a reputation as being robust and resilient.
The second reason I mention the wattle is because it reminds us that symbols are often more powerful in conveying meaning and gratitude than words, which often fail us. Wattle is one the first plants to regenerate after a fire, painting our national colours, green and gold, across the landscape, symbolising resilience and the importance of renewal. We unify, as Australians and as a nation, behind symbols like our flag, our coat of arms – wattle – because they transcend words and lift our collective spirit.
A quality common to most recipients of Australian honours is humility – you didn’t seek reward or recognition – and the great majority of award recipients – at any investiture ceremony – are not household names and have no wish to be.
However, I urge our recipients today, to remember that these awards live beyond today’s ceremony – they are permanent, and they are given as symbols, both of your extraordinary contributions, and to express the community’s gratitude where words alone are insufficient.
As your Governor, I have the tremendous privilege of representing and speaking on behalf of all the people of our magnificent State. By investing you with your honours and awards today, I also attempt to confer the high esteem which is held for you by your fellow citizens, our peers.
So please enjoy, and indeed embrace, today, even if it requires you, fleetingly, to put aside your humility. For in our nation, there is, quite simply, no higher form of recognition than that bestowed through the Australian honours system; it is the pre-eminent way Australians acknowledge the achievements and service of their fellow citizens.
Today’s ceremony, surrounded here by friends, family, and colleagues, symbolises that, in some way, your fellow Queenslanders recognise that you have lived your life in a remarkable and distinguished way.
Kaye and I look forward to offering you all some warm and welcoming Government House hospitality on this special and important occasion as a token of this recognition, and of our own gratitude. Thank you.