Investiture Ceremony (D) for Residents of Queensland
Kaye and I are honoured to welcome to this grand heritage building, a hundred and fifty years old this year, our distinguished recipients, their proud families and friends, and our official guests.
Of the many ceremonies that I conduct in this room, none is as moving and humbling as those where I present awards for bravery.
‘Brave’ has many synonyms in English. In our daily discourse, we use it almost interchangeably with words like ‘adventurous’ or ‘fearless’; we praise small children for being brave when they graze a knee and don’t cry; we talk about ‘braving the elements’ when all we have done is to walk out into a rainstorm.
Today’s honours give us an opportunity to re-evaluate the word; to view the actions of our awardees as they should be seen – as extraordinary actions by exceptional people.
Each of the citations for today’s ceremony tells its own story – confronting and tackling a thief; entering a burning vehicle or house to carry victims to safety; venturing into rivers or dark and treacherous floodwaters to reach people; swimming into dangerous surf to rescue people at risk; and going to the aid of colleagues in a violent terrorist attack in Afghanistan.
Each of these stories is as different and unique as the men, women and children who took action, but there is a common thread which runs through them all — the quality of selflessness, of putting others first. It is that exceptional quality that we honour and celebrate today.
Not one of our awardees would have woken on the morning of the day that has brought them here, thinking ‘Today, I’m going to be brave’.
But their presence of mind and their profound sense of humanity led each of them to act as they did.
As we can see from the citations, bravery is not a factor of age – Cody Sunderland was only thirteen when he tackled an intruder.
Nor is bravery linked to one’s experience or profession – danger and risk might well be, but not one’s reaction to it.
We will never find ‘bravery’ listed as a selection criterion in a position description; we will never see anyone acting bravely on command.
It is an inner quality which most don’t even acknowledge in themselves until the day – the moment – when their lives are changed for ever through a single, unpremeditated decision.
Absorbing the enormity of that action taken can take many years and it can be many more years before a nomination is received from the public and considered by the Australian Bravery Decorations Council.
Several of those here today have been awarded their medal or commendation for events which took place four or five years ago.
In the case of one of our posthumous awardees, it is forty-three years since he and three friends dived into the icy Numeralla River in New South Wales to rescue the people trapped in a crashed vehicle.
As Governor and the representative of our Queen in this State, I am privileged to speak for all Queenslanders.
It is on their behalf that I congratulate all awardees on the honours they are receiving today and thank them for taking the action they did – through their example, they have helped make Australia a kinder, more caring and compassionate society.