Luncheon to celebrate 100 years since King George V Established The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. As the personal representative of Her Majesty The Queen in this State, I am delighted to join you today, one hundred years and two days after King George the Fifth established the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
I am also delighted to celebrate another milestone with you, as 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Queensland Association itself.
Furthermore, today is Queensland Day, a celebration of the 158th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s formal assent to the separation of the new colony of Queensland from New South Wales.
On the 14th of March this year, indeed at 12:15pm at Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria’s great-great-grand-daughter, Her Majesty The Queen, graciously granted Kaye and me our second audience. To no one’s surprise, certainly not ours, Her Majesty was as spirited, attentive and informed as ever.
It would be fair to say, then, that today’s celebration has an abundance of regal and vice-regal connections.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Order was founded in 1917 with one purpose in mind – King George wanted there to be a new order of chivalry that publicly acknowledged significant service and achievement by non-combatants during World War One.
The Order quickly became a formal means of honouring achievement and meritorious service to country and community in a wide variety of fields, both civilian and military. And now to this country…
In 1975, Her Majesty The Queen assented to the establishment of the Order of Australia, a uniquely Australian set of honours that seeks to achieve similar goals.
It was interestingly, until the 1990s, that both orders coexisted. It remained possible, in principle, for Australians to be recommended for Imperial Honours.
And for Australians to be honoured under both systems – as have a number of Association members here today.
Inevitably, though, the Australian honours system has now acquired the higher public profile in this country.
But the value and meaning of Imperial Honours awarded to Australians remains unchanged.
Any Australian honoured in one of the five civilian and military divisions within the Order of the British Empire has received this recognition because of outstanding service to Australia.
I take this opportunity, as Governor, to reiterate Queenslanders’ appreciation and admiration for the achievements and meritorious service of all those in our State who have been honoured with such an award.
This Association has worked with great energy and dedication to develop and support a community of those who have been so honoured, and those holding the British Empire Medal.
Such is the Queensland Association’s success that it is the only still-functioning organisation of its kind in Australia.
The Queensland Association has also made significant contributions to the Order, and not just in this State and country. In that respect, I was pleased to learn that three members of the Association attended Order’s 100th Anniversary service in St Paul’s Cathedral in London just two weeks ago.
Kaye and I cannot claim that, though we did attend the St Michael and St George service there in December 2006, when I was privileged to receive Sir Harry Gibbs’ GCMG banner from the Chapel following his passing the year before. I was then Chief Justice, and the Gibbs family graciously gave his esteemed regalia to my then Supreme Court.
I thank all those who have served as senior office-holders in the Queensland Association for their hard work and their commitment to the Association’s longevity, and to its members.
That admirable ethos of service is evident throughout the Association. For example, the Association has been fortunate in having had only nine presidents, including the incumbent, in forty years.
That is a record deserving of great pride.
As Governor, it is with great pleasure that I congratulate the Order on its centenary. I thank all of those who have served the Queensland Association so faithfully over the past four decades.
I congratulate the Association most warmly on its fortieth anniversary.
And it is with pleasure that I invite you to mark the occasion in the traditional way – with a toast:
To The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire!