Commemorative Luncheon in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second, Australia House, London, United Kingdom
- The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia, and Ms Jodie Haydon, partner to the Prime Minister
- Ms Lynette Wood, Acting High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
- Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a privilege for Linda and me to be in London and with you all as we mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth The Second.
As you would understand, it is also a privilege that none of us wishes to exercise. Although we knew this day would come, it is not one that we would wish to be part of.
Her Majesty’s passing continues to be felt deeply by people all around the world and especially so in Australia.
I think it is important today that, both individually and collectively, we can come together at this time — to mourn Her Majesty, to reflect on her profound impact over the course of her 70-year reign, and to recognise the beginning of the reign of King Charles The Third.
Linda and I spoke with His Majesty from Australia last Wednesday. I had written to His Majesty to pass on condolences, but as I did with Queen Elizabeth at the passing of Prince Philip I didn't think a letter was sufficient and wanted to voice my condolences to him.
As with his mother, the first response after offering condolences for Prince Philip, now for Her Majesty, was not necessarily concentrated on them; it is straight back to what is happening in Australia — how are Australians, how are they responding, how are they faring?
If in this time of mourning we are looking for comfort, I think there is continuity in both the approach of His Majesty and of course in him having being well-schooled by Her Majesty.
On both that occasion and yesterday at lunch with His Majesty and the Queen Consort, Linda and I expressed our condolences from Australians on the passing of Queen Elizabeth The Second, but also wished him and the Royal Family well as they embark on a new era.
In all of my conversations with His Majesty over a number of years he has reflected his admiration and affection for the people of Australia.
We know of his journeys to Australia and experiences. He, like his late mother, understands us quite well. We see that in the interactions he has with Australians. Indeed, I think when he gets the opportunity to visit those feelings will be reciprocated.
Many in this audience today have had a direct association with the reign of Her Majesty. So, coming together today to share in a Commemorative Lunch, as Lynette has said which has historic roots, allows many of those stories of those links to be discussed. From an Australian perspective I think it is a very fitting way to honour Her Majesty, through our service to her.
Her Majesty had a special bond with Australia and admired our easy-going approach to life and sense of humour. Her 16 visits to Australia and messages of support in good times and in difficult, sometimes tragic, times have been well received.
On 9 September, in my National Address, I talked about some of those memories and recollections, both from her perspective and ours.
There are countless Australians who have had the opportunity to meet Her Majesty, attend an event in her honour or observe her up close. Those interactions, such was her impact on people, have now become family folklore in Australia. They are things talked about at Christmas or over drinks — how she has really been integrated into so many families in Australia.
On a personal note, in 1954 I was six months old when Her Majesty first came to Australia. She visited Wollongong. My mother told me she held me up in the crowd to watch the motorcade go past. So, I was able to tell Her Majesty that I saw her in 1954! Many Australians have those types of stories.
Similarly, speaking with her when I became Governor of New South Wales, and now as Governor-General — being able to share those stories over lunch with Her Majesty and with Prince William — all those things now, in the light of what has happened over the last week, really do become cherished stories; the ability now to reflect on that and to say weren't we so fortunate to live during her reign.
But of course Her Majesty was more than a head of state. She was a lovely person, if I may say so. She was warm, compassionate, extremely curious, alert, highly engaged, funny and kind.
A few months back, we invited the four Australians of the Year for 2022 to join Linda and me for a video link with Her Majesty. It was just a hoot of a night. She engaged very warmly and humorously and with great sincerity was interested in every story.
What I have observed from the reaction of Australians over the course of the last 10 days is that there is no single quote, or memory or moment that can actually define Her Majesty.
All those memories are apt and all are special. They are both individual and, collectively, the memories of an entire nation.
For many of us, Her Majesty’s presence in our lives provided a source of comfort and assurance.
Nearly 90 per cent of Australians were born during her reign.
She was a constant in our lives, a symbol of stability, inspiration and, given her faith, a real model of servant leadership.
We have respected her and we have loved her.
That love was evident in Australia and across the Commonwealth as we celebrated Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.
At the National Service of Thanksgiving held at St. Paul’s Cathedral here in London in June, a passage from Philippians was read which concluded with these words: ‘If there is any excellence, and if there is anything of praise, think about these things.’
There was certainly excellence and much cause to praise in Her Majesty’s life.
We will farewell her tomorrow. There will continue to be, I think, great sadness and reflection.
But we take enormous example. We often speak about legacy. Her Majesty has left us an amazing legacy — an example of service, devotion, a real ability to engage with people at all levels, and the ability to inspire.
If that is the legacy any of us could leave, we would be grateful.
May she rest in eternal peace.