Royal Historical Society of Queensland Award Presentation and Annual Queensland Day Dinner
Thank you to our MC Mr Denver Beanland and the Society’s Acting President Ms Che Aberdeen. I too acknowledge our elected representatives. I am delighted that my first official duty, as the newest vice-regal patron of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, is to attend this splendid annual dinner to celebrate Queensland Day and to present the John Douglas Kerr Medal.
I should at once acknowledge that this tie I have worn today, which displays the Tartan Emblem of Queensland, may be more novel than steeped in history. The pleasant design, by Mr Jack Allen of Bundaberg, reflects his perception of the many defining Queensland colours of winter, and I commend him for that. These ties, and complementary scarves for women, have been worn today at Government House!
The Society’s Secretary, Dr Ruth Kerr, has shared with me the belief that this dinner, held in the magnificent setting of our State’s most significant heritage building, is the only such celebration of Queensland Day held anywhere in our State. It is a day – in fact now Queensland Week – which ought widely to be celebrated.
Government House has long honoured this watershed occasion in the development of our State by hosting on Queensland Day an Open House.
I am pleased to be able to report that at least 3706 people attended the event today, between noon and 4pm, and apparently greatly enjoyed their time in the House and the grounds. Kaye and I greatly enjoyed meeting many of them: and posing for photographs and signing books!
Today’s successful event at Paddington commemorated another milestone – the 150th anniversary of Fernberg – built in 1865 by Johann Heussler, and the official residence of Queensland Governors since 1910.
And in the context of what Che said earlier, I mention that I have just completed reading a handsome two volume set of speeches and dispatches of Sir George Bowen while he was Governor of Queensland, and then NZ, Victoria, Mauritius, Hong Kong and Malta… a set presented to me very generously as part of a farewell gift from my former colleagues from the Supreme Court when I left last July. Also, in the Study, is an original copy edition of Evatt’s ‘The King and His Dominion Governors’, also generously presented to me in those circumstances by the members of the Council of Chief Justices of Australia and New Zealand. In presenting it, the Chief Justice of the High Court said presciently that I may find this useful. I was surprised I confess to find it so useful so early in my term.
The Society deserves special commendation for sustaining Queensland Day and ensuring its contemporary relevance.
Queensland Day has been celebrated only since nineteen eighty-one – a mere thirty-four years, one year after another great annual event for Queenslanders – Rugby League’s State of Origin.
As disparate and distant as Queensland Day and the State of Origin competition might seem, I believe it can be argued that there is a strong and direct connection.
In other words, our rivalry with New South Wales is deeply rooted in our history.
Just as the announcement that Queensland would be a Colony in its own right was greeted with enormous public euphoria in eighteen fifty-nine, so, today, victory over New South Wales on the rugby field is invariably greeted with jubilation – and not a little schadenfreude!
The announcement of independence was a triumph for our early settlers – not only did the sixth of June mark the official birth of Queensland as a separate colony, but, by extension, some forty years later, it identified Queensland as one of the six foundation States of the Commonwealth of Australia. It was a very significant day indeed.
Today, Queensland State Archives are the custodian of our State’s founding documents – the Letters Patent appointing George Ferguson Bowen as the colony’s first Governor, and the Order-in-Council establishing the new colony, proclaimed on Christmas Eve, eighteen fifty-nine.
It was at that time a marvellous Christmas gift for all Queenslanders. Today, the gift of Queensland Day continues with a full week of activities, focusing on our history and the achievements of the people who live here.
Those achievements are recognised by the presentation of an annual ‘Queenslander of the Year’ Award to an outstanding member of the State’s community as well as a ‘Young Queenslander of the Year’ award, introduced in nineteen eighty-nine, and a ‘Community Spirit’ Award launched in two thousand and six.
It is particularly pleasing to see the Society’s own award, the John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction which I will shortly present, added to the tributes celebrated on this significant day. I commend the Society for providing this recognition and support for research, and warmly congratulate the twenty-fifteen winner.
I thank the Royal Historical Society of Queensland and the Professional Historians Association (Queensland) again for the invitation to Kaye and me to join you for this special occasion and wish everyone here a very happy Queensland Day!