Honours and Awards within the Australian Honours System Investiture Ceremony (A) for Residents of Queensland
Kaye and I extend a very warm welcome to today’s awardees, their family, friends and colleagues, and our official guests.
I at once acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands around Brisbane, the Turrbul and Jagera peoples, and extend respect to Elders past and present.
As is clear from the citations you have just heard, this Investiture Ceremony is devoted in its entirety to the conferral of bravery awards on residents of Queensland.
Some of the incidents mentioned in the citations may have faded from collective memory.
Ultimately, it does not matter whether some of these events are more clearly remembered in the community than others. Whatever the time period, situation and circumstance, the courage shown by our awardees had one quality in common – it was remarkable.
They faced fire, explosion and flood, violent assailants, dangerous seas, and a helicopter crash. In every case, they put themselves in harm’s way – and I mean real, heart-stopping danger, not moderate risk – to protect, defend, or save others.
In some cases the ‘others’ were members of their own family. In some cases, they were total strangers.
The danger often arose suddenly and unexpectedly, with little time to weigh up the pros and cons of action or inaction. In every case, today’s award recipients chose to go to the assistance of others.
I don’t believe that today’s recipients would object to being called ‘ordinary Australians’. There is no distinctive profile, profession, or background common to them all.
Clearly, there is no minimum age qualification either.
Four of today’s recipients were aged between four and fourteen when they protected and aided their mother, and their youngest sibling, in the face of a brutal assault. That kind of courage would be exceptional in an adult. In such young people, it is beyond exceptional.
If my experience of bravery awards is any guide, the only description today’s recipients might object to is ‘brave’.
But they are the only ones in this room, and in the community, who question that description. Every other Australian would have no doubt that it is right and proper to see our awardees’ here today, having their bravery recognised through the conferral of prestigious national awards.
We should be conscious of the fact that three of today’s awards are the second highest level of civilian recognition for bravery – the Star of Courage.
And that several of today’s awardees received two awards, one individual, the other a Group Bravery Citation, recognising that their personal courage and their efforts as part of a group are worthy of separate recognition.
It is well-nigh impossible for us to fully understand the experience our awardees have been through. But we should be aware that these intense, often traumatic experiences can have an impact on the rescuers, as it were, as well as the rescued. For that reason, we as a community should take great care of the exceptional people being honoured today.
Although we cannot fully understand the experience that these wonderful fellow Australians have undergone, we can at least respond with great humility, admiration, and deep gratitude for their courage. Today’s awards are a manifestation of that admiration and gratitude.
On behalf of all Australians, I congratulate all today’s bravery awards recipients on the great honour bestowed on them.
I thank them on behalf of those whom they bravely sought to save or protect. And I thank them, on behalf of all Australians, for inspiring us to seek out the courage in ourselves and for making showing us the way to a more caring and compassionate community. Thank you.