Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ii and Accession of His Majesty King Charles Iii


10:19 am

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to join the Senate in marking the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Much has been said in this debate already about Her Majesty's extraordinary contribution, and I acknowledge the words shared by my colleagues today. Born in 1926, Queen Elizabeth II's life spanned nearly a century of rapid and substantial societal, economic and political change. Much has been made about the longevity of her reign, and that she witnessed 16 Australian prime ministers, from Menzies to Albanese. Her connection to and love of Australia was strong and it was enduring.

Today I want to focus my remarks on the Queen's connection to my home state of South Australia, where she saw 15 different premiers lead our state. She visited my home state seven times over her 70-year reign, witnessing the evolution of Adelaide into a modern, vibrant urban capital, the development of our thriving industries and, of course, the change to those industries. Befitting the longevity and significance of her reign, her presence will continue to be felt across my state through the landmarks of which she is namesake, including the suburb of Elizabeth and its surrounding satellites, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the state electorate of Elizabeth. The kindness shown by the Queen to our state in times of tragedy, most recently during the bushfires that tore through our state, have always been noted and appreciated by South Australians. On her visits to our state she met figures who had their own impact on South Australia, from Thomas Playford taking her on a tour of the Holden factory to being accompanied by Don Dunstan as she toured of the city of Adelaide—the city which was embracing an artistic and vibrant future.

Through all of this change, the Queen was a constant, an enduring and reassuring presence through the rapid change of the past 70 years. It felt like she may just always be with us. As a little girl, I looked to our Queen fondly. She was a woman leading. So often she was the only woman in the room. Indeed, when she came to the throne in 1952 there had been only four women elected to this chamber, and two in the other place. Of course, it would be another 58 years before we had our own female leader in Prime Minister Julia Gillard. For all of my years, the Queen's authority as a woman in that role has been without question. While for committed Republicans like myself we cannot escape the fact that hers was a role born into, the fact that she commanded such respect, love and devotion for her service and duty meant that she was a powerful role model to so many girls, challenging the stereotypes around leadership, strength and who was worthy of being in the room. Now, as a working mother I have deep respect for the way she managed her role so diligently while raising four much loved children. Our thoughts are with her children, her grandchildren and indeed all who loved her and cared for her at this time.

The mourning for Her Majesty has been felt worldwide. This has also been a time for reflection on the work yet to be done to reconcile the dark parts of our history with the harmonious future we seek to build together. We must no longer be a nation that denies or ignores the truth of our past, and I believe we are sophisticated enough as a nation to speak and share the truth of our history while still being able to pay our respects to a remarkable woman. As we move beyond this Elizabethan era I hope we can channel the values of duty, service and commitment to country and community that Her Majesty so steadfastly modelled. Here I wish to borrow from our Prime Minister, and his words at the national memorial yesterday:

Perhaps the greatest tribute we can offer her family and her memory is not a marble statue or a metal plaque—it is a renewed embrace of service to community, a truer understanding of our duty to others, a stronger commitment to respect for all. This would be a most fitting memorial to a magnificent life. May Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II rest in eternal peace.


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