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Australian Local Government Association: National General Assembly 2022, National Convention Centre, Canberra ACT

[E&OE]

This is Ngunnawal Country. Today we are all meeting together on this Ngunnawal Country. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Elders.

Good morning.

Thank you for the providing me with the opportunity to address you this morning at your National General Assembly.

Your Assembly this year occurs at an important time: Australia is facing many challenges at the national and international levels that have significant implications for local government leadership and local communities. 

In the short time since we arrived this morning I’ve seen many familiar faces. Linda and I have met many of you – in person or virtually, in good times and in bad – since I became Governor-General nearly three years ago and in my previous role as Governor of New South Wales.

Whether by phone, Zoom, briefings or visits we have been able to check in to see how communities are faring and progressing with recovery and rebuild.

Notwithstanding the circumstances surrounding those interactions, I have been extremely impressed by what you have achieved and by the leadership you have displayed.

Many of you, at a very personal level, have experienced the full brunt of the impact of our natural disasters and the pandemic over the past two years. Linda’s and my thoughts are particularly with those of you still struggling to recover.

We appreciate the recovery takes time and is a mammoth task.

Linda and I will leave your meeting this morning to return to northern New South Wales and South-East Queensland to visit flood-affected communities. It has been important to us to visit and to speak with representatives of local government and with local people in disaster-affected areas, to offer comfort to those who have experienced loss, to see and hear firsthand what is happening on the ground and to determine how I can help.

Some of our interactions have been confronting. There has been loss on a large scale. Livelihoods have been turned upside down. The pain and hurt runs deep. These interactions however do provide me with a rich source of information that I can pass on to Premiers, Chief Ministers, Ministers and the Prime Minister.

Let me be very clear: from my observations, Local Government has been integral to the national response to recent natural disasters and the pandemic.

As Governor-General, I want to acknowledge your herculean efforts and say thank you.

To the Mayors and Councillors, Council CEOs and staff – thank you.

It’s been an incredibly tough time for all. Local Government representatives and staff are not immune to the impacts of flood, or fire, or drought, or cyclones, or mouse plagues, or a pandemic. They too have livelihoods and families.

Yet you stayed the course and were there to help your communities.

You have risen to the challenges and put the interests of your community first.

Our communities – and I don’t need surveys to tell me this; Linda and I have seen it repeatedly – are remarkably determined when faced with challenges, the nature of which we have recently experienced.

This Assembly, therefore, will serve as a chance to come together, to take stock and to reflect.

It will also allow for planning for the future. That you intend to do so is evident in your session topics and the broad range of issues raised in your Business Papers.

From ‘Strategic Community Leadership’ and ‘Local Government action to reduce disaster risks’ in breakout sessions to ‘Co-contribution’ and ‘Closing the Gap’ in your papers, you will consider many issues that are important to Australia’s future. The motions on ‘Intergovernmental Relations’ are intriguing but the less said by me on that subject the better I believe!

The Mayoral panel session on Wednesday which asks the question: ‘What have we learned?’ also provokes interest. I trust that you make the most of this opportunity. 

As Mayors, Councillors, Council CEOs and staff – you possess an enormous amount of local knowledge and that can greatly benefit the development of it future policies.

I was delighted to see that ALGA had highlighted and congratulated those members awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List:

  • Former City of Swan Council CEO, Mike Foley OAM
  • Former Shire of Mundaring President and Councillor, David Lavell OAM
  • Former Mayor of Carrathool Shire Council, Peter Laird OAM
  • Former Councillor of Naracoorte Lucindale Council, Graham Carter OAM
  • Former Councillor and Deputy Mayor, Central Highlands Regional Council, Gail Nixon OAM
  • Deputy Mayor of Albury City Council, Steve Bowen OAM

Congratulations to all of you.

One of my responsibilities is as the Chancellor of the Order of Australia. The Order is the pre-eminent means by which we recognise service to Australia and its people.

For people to be recognised in the Order they need to be nominated – by their peers, by you.

Ours is a bottom-up, grass roots system. It is not a system whereby I or the Prime Minister sit down over a coffee and say, ‘Oh, why don’t we give so-and-so an honour; they’re a good person.’

Our system relies on people nominating others in the community who they think are deserving of recognition.

I ask for your support by ensuring that you have annual processes that consider the merits of the contributions made by your local people to their community.

I am extremely pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with you today.

To say thank you for your efforts and for what you do.

The last few years have tested us all, not least those in local government.

Yet you have selflessly put your communities first and I commend you for that.

I wish you a productive and rewarding Assembly.

[Ends]