9 September (pm) - 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. This is the fourth such ceremony Kaye and I have had the pleasure of hosting this week, here in this magnificent setting at Fernberg. We are, indeed, privileged to call this gracious residence our home for the time being. However, Fernberg really is the ‘people’s house’, and we genuinely enjoy sharing it with you, our wonderful fellow Queenslanders.
Honours and awards enable a nation to reward excellence, achievement and outstanding service amongst its citizens, and in Australia, they are the pre-eminent way we recognise the outstanding contributions of our peers.
The Australian honours system reinforces, and indeed adds a gloss to, the Australian character because nominations come directly from the community. Prior to its introduction in 1975, remarkable Australian feats of compassion, ingenuity and service were recognised through the British imperial system. Of course, we still celebrate these foundations and indeed maintain important aspects of it; for example, the Victoria Cross remains the apex of our honours system, which even takes precedence above the recently re-instated Knights and Dames in the Order of Australia.
However, the Australian system was designed to capture the values and experiences of Australians, not least of which is a sense of humanity writ large by egalitarianism, and, if I may, punctuated by an at-times charming pugnaciousness. That this is achieved through peer nominations, without fear or favour of political interference, is all the more remarkable. It is rather telling that, these days, nominations for parts of Britain’s honours system now, too, come directly from the community.
The citations you have just heard read out by the Official Secretary give us valuable insights into the admirable work of recipients, and the way in which it helps make our community a better place, building and sustaining community strength and cohesion.
And, as is evident from those citations, today’s award recipients have made their contributions in a great variety of ways, and in a great variety of fields of endeavour. I mean by that not only awards presented over the course of this week are drawn from categories specific to the armed forces, police, fire, ambulance and emergency services, and the public service. I mean also the impressive variety of fields in which recipients of the broader Order of Australia awards have been active.
The variety does not end there, because there is no template for an honours recipient. In this or any other group of awardees you are likely to find a range of backgrounds, personalities, interests, talents and places of origin.
This wonderful diversity is another one of the very great strengths of the Australian Honours system. But within it is a common thread: the core reason awardees are being honoured today is that is that their service and contribution to community, their achievement are well outside the sphere of the ordinary.
It is therefore with great pleasure that I congratulate our award recipients on the signal honour their country has accorded them today; and that I thank them wholeheartedly, on behalf of the Queensland and broader Australian community, for their contributions to our country and State.
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 our own gratitude and esteem for the “very best of Queensland” at Government House today. Thank you.