Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

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


11:10 am

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

The outpouring we have seen in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II is testament to just how remarkable her life was. As monarch, she dedicated her entire life to public service. Being 50 years of age, I have seen 50 years of that service. We have seen the sacrifices she has made to look and think beyond her immediate circumstances and focus firmly on the stewardship of her role as head of state, head of Australia and head of the Commonwealth.

I admired her for her poise and the way she engaged with people, epitomising warmth, wisdom and humour in all her interactions. Queen Elizabeth II was focused and clear about her role as monarch and her role across the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth nations, including Australia. I can't imagine what it must have been like to deal with her own father's unexpected death and become sovereign at just 25 years of age. The strength and resilience that she showed in those 70 years since duly deserve the recognition that Australia has bestowed on her in recent days.

Her passing has left me to reflect on her public service, and my own, and indeed the privilege that this is. None of us were born into British royalty in this place; if we were, we should have to give it up in order to serve. However humble or mighty our backgrounds are as members of this place, we are all enormously privileged to be here. I was most moved by the gracious welcome to country by Ngunnawal elder Aunty Violet Sheridan and the procession of the Wiradjuri Echoes yesterday.

The Queen projected stability and permanency, and indeed she was informed and, rightly, apolitical. Here now in our nation, our young federation, we realise that we have a link not just to the British Crown and King Charles as our sovereign but also an ancient, timeless and permanent cultural and political asset in our First Nations cultures. It was wonderful to see that come together in yesterday's ceremony. The Queen's personal gift was reflected on by Senator Dodson, and that was her ability to transcend that institution, embodying connection and hope for a better future, kindness and resilience in all that she did—many of the same values that we are proud to call Australian. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth showed grace and dignity and brought timelessness to a role which has spanned an ever-changing period of time.

My mother took me as a child to see Queen Elizabeth II during the silver jubilee in 1977. She landed in Perth airport after visiting a number of Western Australian towns. On her many visits to Western Australia over the years, she visited Perth but also Fremantle, Kalgoorlie, Busselton, Albany, Geraldton, Northam, York, West Swan—indeed she saw much more of the nation than most Australians. Upon reflection, I know that my mother enjoyed seeing the Queen as a working mother, much like herself. My sister, who was only two at the time, and I both remember to this day how upset we were when we had to hand over our garden flowers to a lady in waiting. I note that King Charles and Camilla are modernising the Crown, and we may not see ladies in waiting as commonly as we have.

Here in Australia, we look now to the modernisation of our own Federation, with the Uluru Statement from the Heart and, indeed, a new constitutional future. I myself enjoyed the pageantry of the Queen's funeral. Once upon a time, Australians would have identified very strongly as part of the Empire. I'm proud today to know how far we have come, while recognising how much further there still is to travel in terms of bringing our First Nations culture into the heart of our nation and who we are. It is, then, even more remarkable to me that Queen Elizabeth has been such a key part of our national identity and our national journey and born witness to these changes for the last 70 years. With gratitude and fondness, I pay my respects to Queen Elizabeth II for her service to Australia.


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