Friday, 23 September 2022
Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ii and Accession of His Majesty King Charles Iii
Over the past two weeks, Australians have remembered a remarkable leader, a woman of warmth and humanity and a constant through a period of enormous transformation for the world, for the Commonwealth, for Australia and also for the constituency I represent here in the ACT and in Norfolk Island, where the Queen visited in 1974.
The Queen was a close friend of our nation's capital, a cherished hometown and the city that she visited the most. From the moment she first arrived here in 1954, stepping out at Old Parliament House in her coronation grown, the Queen saw in Canberra the promise of a modern Australia. Half a century ago she said: 'At the time, Canberra was a little more than a dream in the minds of a few men. Today it is established and flourishing. A beautiful city is being created.' As the years passed, and over 13 subsequent visits, the Queen watched that creation unfold.
She was here for so many of our moments, the big and the small. Whether she was cutting ribbons at the ANU's RG Menzies Library, the National Carillon, the High Court, the National Gallery or this very building we meet in today; whether she was being greeted by 16,000 excited children at Manuka Oval or dutifully inaugurating Bonython Primary School; or whether she was honouring Canberra's emergency responders with a handshake and warm words of thanks, sparking fierce local debate about the pronunciation of Manuka—or is it Manuka?—or simply stealing a quiet moment observing the kangaroos in Government House's grounds, the grounds at Yarralumla that she loved and felt so at home in, you got the sense that as she watched our city grow the Queen made a real effort to know us, to know who we were and who we wanted to be.
Canberrans were proud that the Queen thought of our city as her home away from home in Australia. I know that those who shared a moment with her over the years saw much more than a monarch. They saw genuine interest and a person who put people at ease—for those who were nervous about meeting her. A little girl who greeted the Queen at Floriade one year said to her mum afterwards, 'Mum, it was like talking to your grandma; she was so tiny and soft.' That same day, the Queen pointed out the English daisies to one of the gardeners at Floriade. He said he would remember that moment for the rest of his life.
It was an honour to meet her in 2011 as Chief Minister. The day we met, I remember clearly. I met with her several times over her week-long stay. On arrival, at the beginning of her visit, the setting was decidedly low-key—a Wednesday evening on the tarmac at Fairbairn. Standing next to me was the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard and then Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce. We were there to greet Her Majesty for what would become her final visit to Australia. It wasn't until we were standing in ceremonial order with the Federation Guard welcoming Her Majesty that it dawned on me—four leaders in a row, four women, a major first in the history of women's leadership in our country. And it will remain a lasting memory for me.
As Canberrans take in the view upstairs on the Queen's Terrace here and follow the gaze of the Queen's bronze effigy, as we take our seats in Queen Elizabeth II's grandstand at Thoroughbred Park or meet up with friends at the Queanbeyan park bearing her name, as we give thanks for the life-changing care provided to generations of Canberra families by the nurses, midwives, counsellors and doctors at the QEII Family Centre in Curtin, and as we wander the lake's edge along Queen Elizabeth Terrace or stroll over the bridge to Queen Elizabeth II Island, our city gently reminds us—Her Majesty the Queen was a part of our history, and we of hers. May she rest in peace.