Reception for Members of the Australian Association of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta
National president, Dr Ian Marshall; 25th Governor of Victoria, Sir James Gobbo and Lady Gobbo to whom we afford an especial gubernatorial welcome today; Queensland Branch Chair and my former judicial colleague the Honourable Justice Martin Daubney; Archbishop of Brisbane, His Grace the Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, so welcome here, Your Grace, as always; other distinguished guests, among them Mr Richard Palk, former Australian Ambassador to Malta, and Mrs Helen Palk; ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure for Kaye and me to welcome to Government House today all members – and partners and guests – of the Australian Association of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.
We are also delighted to celebrate with you the return to Brisbane of the Association’s Biennial National Assembly, which will take place over the next few days.
Membership of this venerable Order bespeaks altruism.
The formal title of the Order evokes a long history in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, a history of generous assistance to those without means and needing support.
The Order’s association with the Middle East and the Mediterranean remains strong. Its activities now include medical assistance to refugees making the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean to southern Europe, and assisting refugees fleeing from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
But the Order’s mission of ‘witnessing the faith and giving assistance to the poor and sick’ has now spread well beyond its original heartlands to 120 countries.
The Australian Association, like its counterparts elsewhere, engages in projects that bring practical assistance to the sick and the vulnerable.
These include the self-explanatory Coats for the Homeless project, now distributing two thousand warm coats in South East Queensland alone. And Kaye and I were delighted to attend a dinner at Parliament House in April last year in support of this manifestly beneficial cause. What a wonderful cause, so generously and professionally deployed!
Another admirable program focuses on community needs outside our shores – in particular urgent community health needs in Australia’s neighbour, Timor Leste.
May I thank and congratulate the Order in Australia for the marvellous work it supports in communities near and far.
This week’s Assembly provides an opportunity to review, and to plan for the Order’s future. It provides an opportunity to invest in that future by investing new members into the Order.
The important role played by religious observance in the National Assembly program reminds us that the Order is faith-driven, just as its community activities remind us that the Order’s assistance to the vulnerable is entirely ecumenical in its approach.
As you meet with old friends and new here in Brisbane, I reiterate our warm Queensland welcome, particularly to visitors from interstate and overseas.
I often proclaim the “big-heartedness” of our fellow Queenslanders: in your generous altruism, ladies and gentlemen, you are all naturally welcome here, and may I say it is wonderful what you do to support our disadvantaged fellow citizens in many parts of the world.
Kaye and I wish all you a most fulfilling, productive, and enjoyable National Assembly.