Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

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


11:22 am

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise on the occasion of this condolence motion to pay my respects to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to acknowledge her lifetime of service and to pass on my condolences to her surviving family.

Her Majesty was beloved by her subjects throughout the Commonwealth for her deep sense of humanity, her selfless sense of duty and her stable and enduring leadership. She did this in an era of upheaval and turmoil. To a tired world with an ever-growing and crowded chorus of raucous political players, her timeless grace and measured presence allowed her to ascend above the pettiness of politics and become, by the end of her long reign, a paragon, the very essence, of virtue. I have no doubt that forbearance in the face of the many and varied challenges Queen Elizabeth II faced in her long reign was a virtue grounded in her deep and abiding faith. As the head of the Church of England, she adhered to that faith. In the many described interactions the Queen had with people across the globe in her 70 years of leadership, she modelled a servant leadership that echoed the teachings of Jesus Christ, her lord and saviour.

The love the Queen received in her life and death from so many of her subjects, and indeed from those who admired her reign at a further distance, came from a quiet but resolute dignity. The Queen's tirelessness and the way she carried on that life of service through so many national and personal tragedies give us all a standard of public service that challenges us to be like her in that regard. In her personhood, which she so frequently must have subjugated to the Crown, she found joy and comfort in her love of corgis and racehorses. Balmoral, in its wildness and connection to nature in all its majesty, was clearly her place of great comfort and considerable privacy. Much has been made of the Queen's sense of humour—mischievous but also self-deprecating. On her passing, behind all the dutiful and stabilising adherence to tradition and protocol, behind the pomp and splendour, we do well today to remember that in the thousands of reported one-on-one interactions the Queen showed over and over again, across seven decades, that she was an unbelievably strong, resilient, sensitive and charming woman. As a female leader myself, I can only imagine how in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s—and, indeed, in some situations up to this day—she would have so often been the only woman in the room. She modelled, in her Elizabethan reign, the strength of women in leadership.

None of us, not even a queen with faith on her side, lives a perfect life. We're all subject to the historical tides of our times. We rise and fall with them. When we are found wanting, time gives us the opportunity to change, to grow and to become a better version of ourselves every day. The Queen modelled that capacity to change and meet the very different circumstances of her reign and the politics of the time. Her modelling of that insightful reflective skill and her capacity to see and to adapt to meet with these times is instructive. Embodying this skill and insight will be important for our new monarch, King Charles III, as he encounters the political winds of change across the Commonwealth, including changes of sentiment about the future of the constitutional monarchy here in Australia and political challenges in other jurisdictions.

As a senator for the great state of New South Wales, I want to pass on my deepest condolences to Her Majesty's family as they cope with their loss. As much as Her Majesty was a model of dignity and grace in her leadership of the Commonwealth, I can only imagine how supportive, loving and kind she was to her own family and how deep and abiding their grief must be. I send my prayers to the royal family as they hold their loved ones tight in this sad period of mourning.

King Charles farewelled his mother with a line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, 'May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,' referencing her faith and his hopes for her eternal reward. May I close with the words that have been said to have been a mainstay for Queen Elizabeth II from the hymn known as 'Crimond' based on psalm 23 from the Book of Psalms in the Holy Bible.

Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me: And in God's house for evermore my dwelling-place shall be.

May Queen Elizabeth enjoy eternal rest in the arms of the Lord to whom she was servant all the days of her life.


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