Brisbane Club Governor’s Dinner 2016
Mr President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure for Kaye and me to return to the welcoming surrounds of the Brisbane Club for this year’s Governor’s Dinner. The Club always does things so very well. It is a delight to be here again.
The twelve months since we last gathered for this particular dinner have proven difficult to calibrate, given the wild swings of emotion that events all over the world have provoked, especially perhaps now in the United States.
But it would be too easy to let some of these things erode one’s faith in humanity when there have also been triumphs of the human spirit.
One set of events combined great sadness and enormous pride. This year, Kaye and I participated in the centenary commemorations of World War One battles on the Western Front, including Pozières and Fromelles.
The vast fields of white crosses in Northern France tighten the throat and numb the mind.
Yet there is also a surge of pride and deep admiration in knowing that these Australians endured the unendurable and gave their lives for the sake of their country and their mates.
Moving much closer to home, and to happier territory, we have what I will term the Caboolture connection.
Caboolture’s Lakeisha Patterson won Australia’s first gold medal at the Paralympics. At seventeen, Lakeisha lives with cerebral palsy and early onset Parkinson’s disease. Her talent and extraordinary determination are emblematic of all of those who competed their hearts out in the Paralympics and Olympics.
The other Caboolture connection is a group of students from Tullawong State School, who won the Ekka’s Schools scarecrow competition this year.
I invited these students, all of whom have special needs, to visit Government House last month.
They were very pleased to see their marvellous and decidedly un-scary scarecrow, Kurrajongi, prominently displayed in the foyer at Fernberg.
We promised to give Kurrajongi back – reluctantly.
These are examples, on different scales, of inspiring achievements by Queenslanders whose first focus is not what they can’t do, but what they can.
I know that that such an approach to life’s challenges will strike a deep chord in this enterprising and optimistic company, in accord with the values of this distinguished Club.
Another recent recollection I wish to interpose here is of Kaye’s and my 12 hour rail journey aboard the Vice-Regal and Heritage Carriages from Emerald to Longreach, connected to the ‘Spirit of the Outback’, where we had the opportunity to meet locals at Emerald, Barcaldine and Longreach at platform receptions, as well as the passengers on the train. And yes, the town band greeted the arrival at Longreach, and when I refer to ‘locals’, even Winton people made the two hour trip down for the reception, including the Mayor of Winton “Butch” Lenton.
I mention that rail journey for two reasons: the first, there is a distinctive Brisbane Club connection, our being joined on that journey by our Club’s gregarious immediate past President, Mr Michael Klug, with his Queensland Rail Chairman’s hat on, and his wife Jane.
The second reason I mention this is because, despite its rather Brisbane-centric name, our Club still wonderfully welcomes, and indeed, encourages, country and rural participation, including through continuing ‘Country’ membership.
And I know that many of you maintain strong professional and personal links to our regions. This enmeshing our of State’s wonderfully uplifting rural character with our progressive urban identity is a real strength for our State – and one which ought to be pursued on many levels, and with vigour.
You will have gathered from what I have said that your vice-regal couple are very busy. What continually amazes us is the diversity of experiences.
Over the last 2 years, we have made 200 individual regional trips – you can imagine the variety of those experiences, from the Mount Isa Rodeo to the 100th Malanda Show – where Kaye was intrigued to be introduced to an Illawarra bovine bearing her Christian name; to the 125th anniversary celebrations of the Coolabunia State School, where I wandered as a tot in the 1950s, and where we were treated to a performance by a fife band – I thought that fine musicianship was a thing of the long-ago past; we have visited many wonderful heart-warming country shows, where an imperative is avoiding the scones with jam and cream; then the wondrous Mrs Gladys Gerchow of Buderim, who reached 100 this year – her “thank you” note to me, in copperplate handwriting, for my letter of congratulations to her, moved Kaye and me to call on her at her home for morning tea – an intended 20 minute call which well exceeded an hour, and where, I can assure you, it was counter intuitive to avoid the scones...
There was also a special visit to Bundaberg 3 Sundays ago to invest an elderly Mr Eric Cullen with his Medal of the Order of Australia, at the retirement village with his family surrounding him – what an amazing and heart-warming experience (and not to detract from my delight in recently investing Club members Nigel Chamier and Theresa Moltoni with the insignia of the Order, at Government House).
And then there was the tremendous privilege mid-September of acknowledging the 7 Brigade troops returning from the Middle East, thousands of courageous men and women, and greeting their devoted family members at the Botanic Gardens… the list goes on, and I am sure it will not terminate next Saturday when I will undoubtedly enjoy a 45 minute flight along the North Queensland foreshore in a Hawk 127 fighter jet precedent to the RAAF Townsville Air Show. I have complete confidence in the pilot, and my G-suit! And indeed the Government House staff, who have kindly arranged for pre-flight photography only!
Ladies and gentlemen, all of these experiences have emphasised to Kaye and me the wonder of our people and the progressive polity they comprise.
And as to our spectacular geographical matrix, I have been assured, in the context of recent briefings, that our Reef is secure!
It is an enormous privilege to occupy this vice-regal role. The support of all Queenslanders is there, and we are most grateful for that; and the focussed support of people like you is much appreciated. That such support is forthcoming is characteristic of this fine Club with its distinguished and diverse membership, its respect for tradition, and the way it encourages rather than begrudges individual achievement – good for the individual and good for the community.
The Club goes from strength to strength, and the various on-line publications and offerings show what a really progressive establishment it is.
The Club is indeed fortunate to have been blessed with a succession of dedicated Presidents and Committees, whom I now must thank, along with their impressively professional staff who help assure the convivial atmosphere we all so much enjoy.
On that uplifting note, Kaye and I thank you all for your warm hospitality, and we wish you a most enjoyable evening. Thank you.