Launch of the Government House publication 'A Portrait of a Governor'
Chief Justice (who is also Acting Governor while I am for a short time Administrator of the Commonwealth) and Dr Arthur Preston; Mr Speaker; former residents of the Fernberg estate: Ms Forde; Major-General Arnison and Mrs Barbara Arnison; and Dame Quentin and Mr Michael Bryce, to whom I extend a special welcome; Your Honours; senior Defence representatives, ladies and gentlemen. It is Kaye’s and my absolute pleasure that you join us for this afternoon’s launch of the latest Government House publication, ‘A Portrait of a Governor’, which will be available for all online.
Although our former Governors will be familiar with their own portraits, they are yet to see this publication in which they feature. I trust their present anticipation may be less gruelling than was endured during their actual portrait sitting – as they will no doubt attest, there are no certainties about the outcome, except that your children won’t reserve judgement!
The week before last I had the enormous privilege of representing Queensland at significant centenary commemorations of the Battles of Pozières and Fromelles in northern France.
What struck us about these battlefronts was how exposed the soldiers were on those wide, sweeping, flat plains.
Outside opposing trench lines, where often they were, there was “nowhere to hide” – a 21st century sentiment that is, for they didn’t seek to hide, they simply sought to do their duty, as they saw it, to their nation, the allies, their families, each other, humanity, and it was that which impelled them in many instances to conspicuous gallantry.
Words frankly fail to capture the abject horror and destitution confronting our troops on the Western Front, both for those conspicuously courageous and for those others, equally memorable, absolutely doing their duty, under circumstances of extraordinary deprivation, day by day, week by week, month by month…
At a time when photography was scant, it fell to Australia’s dozen or so “official war artists” to depict, through sketches and paintings, enduring perceptions of carnage we might have thought of Napoleonic proportion, but which tragically lived on, indeed expanded, even into our supposedly well-balanced 20th century.
Through portraits, they captured in particular the war-weary drawn faces of our diggers.
Now tonight is not a WWI Commemoration. But I go on to mention our recent experience for two reasons.
First, the scheme of employing “official war artists” continued into the Second World War, including William Dargie, later Sir William, whose sketch portrait of our very first Queensland born Governor, Sir John Lavarack, from Syria in 1942, features in this publication – and whose “wattle” portrait of our Head of State hangs in the vestibule.
The second reason I mention this is because Lavarack fought in the Battle of Pozières. He was one of the “lucky” ones. He survived.
Kaye and I on the 23rd of July laid memorials at the Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Monument preserving the legacy of many of Lavarack’s Queensland compatriots who did not.
We planted a poppy, hand crafted by Ms Marie Williams of Mackay, by the gravestone of Private Robert Kinnon who came from Mackay, and in doing so we also called to mind the wonderful annual Anzac project of the Mackay North State High School.
In some ways, this publication is as much those diggers’ stories as it is Lavarack’s.
For behind each scratching of lead or watercolour, behind each of the brushstrokes of the portraits of my predecessor 25 Governors included in this publication, lie the stories of the people of Queensland those 25 Governors have graciously and diligently served since 1859.
In this publication, each Governor portrait is paired with a short biography outlining that Governor’s achievements while in office – and his or her challenges. Together, these works – visually and in text – paint ‘a portrait of our Governors’, and indeed thereby ‘a portrait of Queensland’, and further, ‘a portrait of Queenslanders’, since 1859.
The publication also recognizes the crucial stipulation that this high office continue actively to preserve and share our State’s richly historical past.
Tonight we are joined by representatives from a number of Queensland organisations who also wonderfully uphold that stipulation, and who graciously permitted Governor portraits and images in their respective domains to feature in the book – from our libraries, universities, community organisations, government agencies, professional associations, and in some cases, the artists themselves – and I am pleased to note the presence here tonight of Barbara Tyson, who produced the portrait of Dame Quentin, and Paul Newton, who was the portraitist of Peter Arnison for QUT.
I wrote a little book myself, back in 2013, about the artworks of the Supreme Court, which I found to be a most fulfilling experience. But that aside, I thereby learnt that producing a worthwhile publication like this takes an enormous amount of effort and application.
And so, my not having written this book, I wish earnestly to thank those from Government House, and under its auspices, who conceived of the production, masterminded its direction, and actually wrote and assembled it. I think they have all joined to produce a really excellent result.
We trust you will find reading ‘A Portrait of a Governor’ – a copy of which you will all receive upon departure – a richly rewarding experience.
And as I passed my second anniversary in this vice-regal office last Friday, I very much wanted to use the opportunity to personally thank all of you for your ongoing contributions to our State. I cannot fulfil these crucial duties without your support and optimism. Thank you.