Official Opening of Waltzing Matilda Day 2015
Distinguished guests, Kaye and I acknowledge you all. We trust you are enjoying your Easter break. It is great to be here in Winton on the invitation of our charismatic Mayor, to attend today’s celebrations which coincide with the 120th anniversary of the historic first performance of our nation’s unofficial anthem, Waltzing Matilda.
At the time of my swearing-in last July, I made the point – which was the right point – that Kaye and I will provide as best we can vice-regal acknowledgement to and support for all Queenslanders. It is our great pleasure to do so. I specifically mentioned we would be travelling “from the Torres Strait to Goondiwindi to Winton”. And tomorrow, we travel west of Winton to meet your compatriots in Boulia.
I grew up in Longreach, and I have visited Winton once before. My classmates and I from Longreach State School (of which my father was head teacher) came via train in nineteen fifty-eight or fifty-nine for a swimming carnival. In those carriages the teachers composed a new Longreach State School song to the tune of ‘Men of Harlech’.
When I sat in Longreach as Chief Justice, I was immensely pleased to learn that song lives on. In defiance of the tone of this weekend’s celebrations however, and thankfully for you all, I will refrain from performing it for you now – though I do 50 years on remember most of the words. We look forward to the contribution, shortly, of the students from Winton State School, and then the parade!
Kaye and I are most enthusiastically committed to fulfilling our crucial regional commitment. We relish the opportunity to meet so many wonderful Queenslanders.
We have during the first eight months of this governorship visited 17 regional centres. We have been deeply moved by spirit of those people we have met, particularly those of the West affected by drought.
Earlier this year, we were honoured to host at Government House in Brisbane three pastoralist families from Western Queensland, including John and Katrina Paine from Daintree Station north of here. All three families were guests of honour at a reception held in support of Queenslanders affected by this prolonged drought, and the organisations which generously support them.
There is a real spirit of cooperation which ensures that disasters like droughts – or indeed cyclones – do not defeat our communities; in an unusual way they enrich them.
That enriched legacy continues to this day to bind our society in an uplifting way. It is wonderfully exemplified throughout our culture including in songs like Waltzing Matilda, which was written and first performed during the Federation Drought – a drought which is thought to have influenced the song’s melancholy themes; bleak themes – but with trademark Australian audacity, we defy them and rollick in the spirit of the song!
Waltzing Matilda’s enduring capacityto speak directly to and unite our wonderfully diverse citizenry is well documented. It is as strong today as it was 120 years ago when first performed at the North Gregory Hotel, or during its first vice-regal performance before Queensland’s 8th Governor Lord Lamington in the same hotel five years later, or when it was performed at Her Majesty’s Coronation on the streets of London in 1953, or when it was performed as recently in Brisbane as 25 March this year by the Australian Army Band for the Royal Salute accorded me at the opening of the 55th Parliament. It is wonderfully preserved in this impressive Centre by its hardworking staff!
Kaye and I once again thank the Mayor, Councillors, the Council staff, the Centre’s board, all the wonderful people of Winton – we are at once honoured and charmed by your genuine, uplifting hospitality.
We also thank those who have travelled far and wide to be here for this most Australian celebration.
We very much look forward to meeting more of you here at the Centre, and as we tour the town and region throughout the day.
It is now my pleasure, here at this eponymous Centre and before we are treated to another splendid rendition, to officially launch Waltzing Matilda Day twenty-fifteen!