Reception for the official birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II
Minister Farmer, representing our Premier; former Governors of Queensland; Mr James Lister MP, representing the Leader of the Opposition; Your Honours; Commander McConnell; Church leaders; Members of the Consular Corps; Commissioner Stewart; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Kaye and I are delighted to welcome you warmly to Government House this afternoon as we join to celebrate the official birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
Those of you who drove up to the House via the top entrance this afternoon will have seen Her Majesty standing regally on the hill.
That bronze statue is one of two of Her Majesty created by acclaimed Australian artist Dr John Dowie. The other stands in the Queen’s Terrace at Parliament House in Canberra. ‘Our’ Elizabeth overlooked the Queensland Parliament on the corner of George and Alice Streets for thirty years and was relocated to Fernberg only two years ago, to my delight.
This past weekend, in celebration of Queensland Day, Kaye and I again opened the doors of Government House to the people, all 1500 of them, and we were more than happy for the first dignitary to greet our wonderful visitors as they walked up the driveway, besides the Vice Regal Dog Gavel of course, to be Her Majesty, the Queen.
And that is because, over the course of our modern history—the past 65 remarkable years—Her Majesty has been our one, enduring Head of State. She has both quietly maintained and publicly expressed her strong affection for the place that bears her title, and for its people – and as she would say, “her” people.
That affection was first stirred a few months after her coronation in 1953. Her Majesty and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, embarked on the first and greatest voyage of her reign, a six-month tour by sea. Its Australian leg was by far the longest, lasting 57 days. The enormous enthusiasm with which Queenslanders greeted Her Majesty made headlines around the world.
Since that memorable occasion, Her Majesty has made a further seven visits to our State. We here all have memories of her most recent visit, in 2011, when with great compassion she offered her personal condolences and encouragement in the wake of our devastating floods.
Last year Her Majesty wrote down her well wishes on Queensland spinifex paper and placed them in the Queen’s Baton. They travelled for 388 days, from hand to hand, nation to nation, and were read out by the Prince of Wales at our Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
Those kind thoughts from afar, along with the bronze on the lawn outside, and the fine artwork in this House – they all reflect the special place Her Majesty occupies in our history and our hearts.
Ladies and gentlemen, with the Australian Army Band Brisbane about to swing into song, I would like to acknowledge a special guest, Arthur Jackson—Bob to his friends—a decorated military officer who is turning 100 next week.
Fire destroyed Bob’s home earlier this year, including his Legion d’Honneur medal. I was delighted when I heard that the French President had issued Bob with another, and equally delighted to see Bob doing so well after his ordeal. Sir, I welcome you to Government House.
It would be remiss of me not also to mention tonight that my Official Secretary Air Commodore Mark Gower OAM celebrates his birthday today, he marks his service as Official Secretary for ten years to the day, and he celebrates his being appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the honours list published this morning. We accordingly thank and congratulate Air Commodore on multiple fronts!
And now, ladies and gentlemen, would you please, with respect, admiration and affection, join me in drinking to the health of our Head of State Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia.