Honours and Awards within the Australian Honours System - Investiture Ceremony for Residents of North Queensland
Kaye and I are very proud Queenslanders and are always delighted to visit the far north of this vast State.
Travelling to this region makes us very aware of the tyranny of distance and of just how important it is for North Queenslanders to know that their voices and concerns are being heard, seventeen hundred kilometres away, in Brisbane.
This is especially so at the moment when coastal communities are still recovering from recent summers of natural disasters and the entire region is now, paradoxically, severely drought-affected.
Knowing this, I must say just how thrilled I was to be at Olympic Park in Sydney for the recent Rugby League premiership battle between two great Queensland teams, and to see North Queenslanders taking such pride in the fairy-tale victory of the Cowboys.
It was an exhilarating, uplifting experience, but when I reflected on it later, I was reminded that not all stories of commitment and courage are played out in the glare of stadium lights or on our television screens.
This is very much the case in this ceremony. I have just had the great privilege of representing Her Majesty The Queen in presenting awards to the 16 men and women here today. They have been acknowledged and honoured not just by their communities and this State, but by our nation.
The Investiture Ceremonies I conduct each year never fail to leave me with a profound sense of admiration and gratitude for the dedication, courage, and altruism of my fellow Queenslanders.
Irrespective of the act or achievement that has led to their nomination for one of our national honours, they are all exceptional individuals and it is very pleasing that, as a nation, we are able to recognise their contribution to Australia and Australian society through our very own Australian system of honours.
Until nineteen seventy-five, the only awards available to Australians were those of the British imperial system. It was Gough Whitlam who, that year, made a patriotic break with tradition and created the distinctly Australian system we have today.
Its fifty-five different awards cover the full gamut of Australian life and they are all awarded in that egalitarian spirit that we value so much as a nation.
The range of actions and achievements represented by today’s awardees is exceptional, from selfless bravery in unimaginable, life-threatening, circumstances, to lifelong dedication, often as volunteers, to building strong, cohesive communities and to helping others through their work in education, health, policing, the defence force, fire and emergency services, the disability sector, and domestic violence prevention.
Each of you has given exemplary service, and that high standard is reflected in the integrity of our honours system. Every award is free from external interference or influence; every nomination is thoroughly checked through many independent referees; and, while you may suspect you know who nominated you, the records of the long review and selection process will always remain confidential, safely preserved in the office of the Governor-General in Canberra.
It is a fine system which is the envy of many nations and, on behalf of all Queenslanders, I congratulate you on the honour you have received today and thank you for the service you have given.