Reception to Celebrate the 2019 Royal Queensland Show
RNA President, Justice Thomas and Councillors; CEO, Mr Christou; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see at Government House both new and familiar ‘Ekka’ faces, all united in their commitment to the Royal Queensland Show. Can I particularly welcome back to Government House our newly crowned 2019 Queensland Country Life Miss Showgirl winner and runner-up, Ms Clare Webb and Ms Brooke Currie, along with this year’s Marsh Rural Ambassadors, Mr Myles Newcombe and Ms Brianna Hockey. We are delighted to have you here.
And yes, RNA, you have inspired us all to realise that at least some of us need embellishment (motion to lapel flower); we did our best with local produce!
May I now acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands around Brisbane, and extend respectful greetings to Elders, past and present, and to future leaders.
‘Commitment’ is an apt word for those involved with our beloved Royal Queensland Show.
The Ekka is an enormous undertaking. The Show program on the RNA website runs to 378 entries!
Last year more than 414,000 people came through the gates, the highest attendance since 2011. I heartily congratulate the RNA on that achievement and look forward to similar success this year.
If those 414,000 attendees all gathered in Bowen Hills, the Ekka would briefly become the third largest city in Queensland, one with interesting dietary habits.
Last year 8,500 CWA scones, 180,000 strawberry sundaes, and – words fail me – more than 220,000 Dagwood Dogs were consumed. Not to mention all those magnificently tempting displays of Queensland’s finest produce!
Speaking of strawberry sundaes, I think our Head Chef Mr Paul Newsham has prepared a delicate surprise for you this evening: all will be revealed, I am told, at 5:45pm precisely!
And we continue Government House’s own significant commitment to this cause, serving – as we always do – the very best Queensland food and wine!
Kaye and I are very pleased we have with us here tonight a number of representatives of our Queensland suppliers to Government House. You know of our policy stipulation of 90% Queensland produce. What excites me, is that we consistently surpass that measure. Mayors have thanked us for acknowledging their regions on the menus, which end up by the way at the State Library – the menus that is, not the Mayors! And beyond that, eating and drinking Queensland, is simply the best!
Our wine tonight: the sparkling, from Clovely Estate in the South Burnett; and from the Granite Belt, a Golden Grove Chardonnay and a 2014 Ridgemill Estate Merlot. And the winemakers join us here, today, too!
The Show is first and foremost a showcase of the dedication, skill and productivity of our State’s vital agricultural sector. Every year, Queensland’s regional communities generously share the products of that skill and dedication with all of us. They have been the heart and soul of the Ekka for each of its 142 iterations!
In that time, the Ekka has also become a gigantic Noah’s Ark, with 10,000 animals on show last year, an educational institution, a charity fundraiser led so ably by Mrs Jane Thomas, a place of keen competition with 21,000 exhibition entries in 2018, a substantial employment generator, and a much-loved heritage and community icon.
No pressure, RNA!
And, like strawberries on a sundae, all of these elements are topped with that characteristic Ekka sense of fun and enjoyment that draws Queenslanders in every August.
Kaye and I have been enjoying that wonderful Ekka spirit for some days now through events including the Scarecrow Competition, the RNA Foundation fundraiser, and a reception for Miss Showgirl finalists.
In fact, Kaye and I experience that show spirit throughout the year, celebrating regional shows including Brookfield earlier this year. We look forward to opening the Mary Valley’s 100th Show and the Kenilworth Show in the near future.
Being a questioning lawyer by training, I sometimes ask myself whether, in my regular ebullient praise of the people of our State, there may be just a tiny element of that apparently dreadful trait of parochialism.
Maybe, but why not proclaim our wonderful people for what they truly are – and the RNA is so effective in enthusing and uniting all our people. Even cold, windy days don’t deter them. Last Friday at Bowen Hills, with so many people present, of all ages, the engagement, the excitement, were to me palpable; and Kaye and I are counting the ‘sleeps’ to Wednesday.
Making a success of the enormous undertaking that is the Ekka requires a mountain of hard work on the part of many.
I thank the RNA Council, executive and staff for their unflagging energy and fierce loyalty to this key celebration of rural and regional Queensland.
Predictably I’ve again done my ‘show and tell’ on the piano lid tonight, with photos of the 2015 Ekka Opening – I was very pleased by the way that the Governor General accepted our invitation to use the Rolls-Royce this year, and for a lap and a half –and then there is that reminder of that other regional legend the Royal Flying Doctor Service: the RNA has enlivened all Queenslanders for 143 years; the RFDS has enlivened regional Queenslanders – though in many cases in a somewhat different way – for, now, 91 years.
And yes, President and Councillors, this is my undisguised pitch to be invited back to open the Ekka in 2020?
As Governor and Patron, I extend my thanks to all those involved in bringing the Ekka to life, many represented here today, in making it possible for hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders to enjoy ourselves, together, as a very and rightly proud community.