Morning Tea in Support of the State Library of Queensland and Queensland Library Foundation
Chairperson of the Library Board of Queensland, Professor Andrew Griffiths; State Librarian, Ms Vicki McDonald; Queensland Library Foundation President, Ms Helen Brodie; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
I at once acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands around Brisbane, and extend respectful greetings to Elders and emerging leaders.
Kaye and I are delighted that you have joined us today for this significant event in the life of Queensland’s Government House – the handover to the State Library of Queensland of some of our most valued artefacts: first, the original architectural drawings, by Richard Gailey, of the 1890s additions to Fernberg,including the iconic belvedere.
I had some initial apprehension in this ‘woke era’ about releasing these plans – they include after all a proposed designated smoking room, servants’ rooms, a billiards room, a parlour, and rooms for the butler and housemaid: but then in 1878, they were not enlightened as we now are!
In addition to the plans, we also donate: the sash, collar and badge of the Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George awarded in 1860 to Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Bowen; and also some of my personal memorabilia – press clippings, menus, booklets from community events – spanning my legal and gubernatorial career, including I notice the original letter of my resignation as Chief Justice precedent to moving here!
The last item aside, our personal collection – which periodically goes to the Library – is largely ephemera, and the more interesting for that!
As Kaye will attest, I am quite assiduous in retaining such material, which thankfully to my mind has not made its way to the rubbish bin!
Relinquishing all these items into the care of the Library is recognition of the vital role this institution plays as custodian of our State’s heritage.
It also acknowledges that, thanks to the support of its Foundation and the generosity of its donors, the State Library is able to offer the best possible conditions for the preservation of these tangible links to our collective past, and can ensure they have the large and diverse audience they deserves.
Now the story of how Bowen’s regalia came to be in Queensland, is a tribute to the exceptional drive of one of the early Presidents of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association, Martha Young… and we are delighted to have the current President, Ms Carolyn Polson, and representatives here today.
Among the many projects to which Martha devoted her considerable powers of persuasion was to collect items of historical significance from descendants of Queensland’s previous Governors – including Bowen’s regalia, which the Association then kindly presented to Sir Walter Campbell as the State’s 21st Governor here at Fernberg in 1992.
In the State Library collection, the sash, collar and badge will join the original pastel portrait of Sir George wearing the regalia, as well as his ceremonial sword and other paraphernalia.
You will be unsurprised that in anticipation of passing these items of such historical significance to the Library, we commissioned replicas which will remain here. Please feel free in the course of the reception to enter my Study and see the replica regalia, situated near the Bowen portrait: this one a facsimile copy of the original already with the Library.
I feel sure that Sir George and Lady Bowen would be very pleased to know that Queensland today has not only a flourishing community organisation – the Queensland Women’s Historical Association – dedicated to preserving our history, but one of the nation’s great collecting institutions – the State Library of Queensland.
Of course, there is a supervening purpose to today’s morning tea – to acknowledge the donors, supporters and staff of the Queensland Library Foundation.
You all have Kaye’s and my enduring support and admiration.
I thank the Library for their ongoing commitment to the vital work they do and once again thank the Foundation and donors for enabling that work to continue.