Leanne Benjamin AM OBE Recital in Honour of Her 2019 Queensland Agent-General Award
Kaye and I are always delighted to return to the majestic Exhibition Hall of Australia House, and especially so tonight our having experienced this lustrous recital.
A true gem among Australia’s diplomatic missions, this Hall has been a drawcard for visiting Australians now for more than a century. I acknowledge and thank His Excellency our High Commissioner, for making this magnificent venue available to Trade and Investment Queensland for this evening’s wondrous event.
I also thank and congratulate Queensland’s Agent-General, Ms Linda Apelt, for instigating the Agent-General Queensland Day Award this year to mark the one hundred and sixtieth anniversary of Queensland’s separation from New South Wales.
Tonight’s recital has been a most fitting tribute to the inaugural winner of that award, Leanne Benjamin.
As Governor, on behalf of all Queenslanders, I congratulate and thank her for the contribution she has made – and continues to make – to her chosen artform and to Queensland.
When Leanne hung up her pointe shoes in 2013, she became Patron of the Tait Memorial Trust which established the Leanne Benjamin Awards for young Australian and New Zealand dancers. Proceeds from tonight’s event will go to this grant program, inspiring young artists to follow their dreams, just as Leanne was encouraged to do by Valeria Hansen, her teacher and mentor in the Central Queensland city of Rockhampton.
Miss Hansen had established her school in 1937, teaching “Operatic Dancing and Acrobatics”. The following year, the local newspaper, TheMorning Bulletin published a remarkably prescient review of a recital:
She went on to train many exceptional professional ballerinas including Mary McKendry, now working alongside her husband, Li Cunxin, at Queensland Ballet. And the High Commissioner, incidentally, hosted an event in Mr Li’s honour in this very building earlier this month.
Now Leanne did eventuallyreceive credit through the award of an OBE in 1981, her reputation having reached near-legendary status.
Miss Hansen would have been immensely proud that the honours awarded to Leanne recognised not only her career, but her role as a mentor — and would have been thrilled to see her honoured tonight through this recital.
Leanne’s home city, Rockhampton, by the way, is about 30 kilometres – or 18 miles in your parlance – from the seaside town of Yeppoon, where Leanne, I am told, often holidayed with her family. That wonderful community, right on the Tropic of Capricorn, is one of the areas most affected by recent bushfires – some 53 homes and machinery sheds destroyed in that district alone. Queenslanders are by nature big-hearted and mutually supportive people; I know they will be touched by the generosity of those here tonight who have donated to the bushfire appeals.
As Governor of Queensland, I thank you all for your attendance at this special event. It has been a most enjoyable evening.