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The Governor-General's Swearing-in speech, Parliament House, Canberra

I acknowledge that this morning we gather on the lands of the traditional custodians — the Ngunnawal — and recognise any other people or families with connection to the lands of the ACT and surrounding regions. I pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

I also acknowledge the many First Nations elders, leaders and young people present here in the Chamber this morning, who bring their languages and cultures from lands across the country.

I would also like to offer a special acknowledgement to Australia’s Federation Guard, whose first salute to me this morning on the Forecourt this morning reminds us of the deep and long-standing bond between the Office of the Governor-General and the Australian Defence Force.

A bond that has particular importance for me, as the daughter of an army officer, who served Australia in that capacity for almost 40 years.

  • The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP (Prime Minister of Australia), and Ms Jodie Haydon  
  • Senator the Honourable Sue Lines (President of the Senate)
  • The Honourable Milton Dick MP (Speaker of the House of Representatives) 
  • The Honourable Chief Justice Stephen Gageler AC (Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and his fellow Justices)
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps 
  • The Honourable Peter Dutton MP (Leader of the Opposition) 
  • Members and Senators
  • Distinguished guests
  • And my dear friends and colleagues, many of whom are sitting in the gallery together, some having come to our Parliament for the very first time this morning.

Sitting here today, alongside parliamentary, business and sports people, are community workers, carers, youth employment advisers, family and domestic violence specialists, allied health experts, organisers of sporting clubs and networks, as well as volunteers, and students and representatives of communities, charities and care organisations from across the country.

These people are at the heart of our communities and our country.

I have had the great privilege of working with and learning from all of you over the years and know that you encapsulate the very best of Australian values.

I am especially pleased to be joined here by my family.

By my father, retired Colonel Bill Mostyn who will turn 90 later this month, and by my sisters Alex, Suzanne and Sally, and their families. And by my husband, Simeon, our daughter, Lotte, and Simeon’s family.

Of course, today, I miss the presence of my mother, Jenny, who if she was still alive would be the proudest person here.

I stand here now as Australia’s 28th Governor-General, immensely conscious of this great honour and privilege. 

I warmly thank the Prime Minister for inviting me to serve. And I thank His Majesty The King for appointing me.

When announcing my appointment, Prime Minister, you said you sought a modern, optimistic Governor-General, capable of uniting and celebrating the very best of Australia.

In the past few months since accepting the position, I have reflected deeply on your words. 

I have had to ask myself several questions about the role and impact of the office of Governor-General in 2024.

I decided there was only one way to answer these questions: to get on the road and listen to people; to listen carefully to those with unique experiences and insights.

My first priority was to meet with all five living former Governors-General, including my immediate predecessor, General David Hurley. 

I congratulate and thank General and Mrs Hurley for their very fine service to our country over so many years. In addition to standing with Australians in the aftermath of natural disasters, they performed their duties during the difficult Covid years. Simeon and I wish them the very best for their years ahead and thank them for their warm and gracious welcome to Government House.

It was a rare and special privilege for me to meet all former Governors-General.

All showed me great kindness and encouragement, and shared their wise advice, drawing on so much of the history of Australia over recent decades.

In particular, I thank Dame Quentin Bryce, our country’s first woman Governor-General. 

Her quiet dignity, experience and thoughtful counsel remain vital for me to understand, as only the second woman to serve in this Office. 

I also met all Governors of our six states and many former Governors.

And I have promised to meet the Northern Territory Administrator early in my term.

I met the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and many former Prime Ministers and Premiers.

In late May, I spent time with His Majesty King Charles at Buckingham Palace. I took the opportunity in that private meeting to pass on the best wishes of Australians for his and the Princess of Wales’ health.

I am not the first Australian to be struck by the interest and warmth The King feels for this country where he lived and studied as a young man. 

In recent months I also spent time in our cities, in our regions and in the country. People from businesses small and large, civil society, philanthropy, frontline services and community organisations, as well as our scientific, sports, arts and cultural sectors.

And every day, I met impressive Australians who do not hold high office, or any office.

I listened to them in airports, in shopping centres, on the boundaries of sports grounds, in theatre foyers and galleries, and often just on the street.

Women and men, and often children, stopped me regularly to talk about this country that they love.

Across a wide range of backgrounds, life experiences and opinions, all of them wished for a brighter future for Australia.

And a desire for unity and optimism — a renewed sense of national possibility — in building that future together.

It struck me that the former Governors-General whom I met expressed the same desires for our country, in almost the same words as everyday Australians.

They also reminded me that the role of Governor-General is not simply to be an observer of Australian life but to be a participant.

To reflect the Australian character and its fundamentally democratic spirit.

In a speech in 1993, 11 years after his retirement, former Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen said:

"Through this work, the Governor-General offers encouragement and recognition to Australians, many of whom may not be very powerful or visible in the course of daily life. 

"And (encouragement and recognition) to the efforts of individuals and groups who work constructively to improve life in the nation and community.”

Sir Zelman also said that the Governor-General had “an opportunity to promote unity and heal divisions, against the passions and rancour of partisan politics.”

In his Australia Day address of 2001, Sir William Deane expressed a vision of “Australians walking together, talking together, caring together, working together and achieving together.” 

Sir William added that if we hold fast to this vision we can face any challenge ahead.

Today, for me, these words feel especially resonant.

Everyone I spoke with, from former Prime Ministers to people in the street, proudly described our country as confident and successful.

Yet, in 2024, it is true that contemporary challenges are placing strains on that confidence.

Many Australians expressed concerns about the global political environment, and the range of conflicts around the world at this time.

They ask whether young Australians will enjoy the benefits of this country in the way that older generations have.

There is concern for a rising lack of respect for women, of shrinking opportunities for some men, and the need for respectful conversations to understand the place of men in our communities now.

Of growing inequality in a country that has always held equality dear. Of sometimes feeling this personally through a cost-of-living challenge, where making ends meet has become harder for many.

Of the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pernicious impact of social media we hear about every day and the challenges to our mental health as a nation.

Finally, and very constructively, many people expressed their concern that we might lose our capacity to conduct robust and passionate arguments and debate with civility and respect — without resorting to rancour or violence.

Yet, despite all these challenges, I will always feel tremendous optimism for Australia.

I often reflect on the words of Cape York leader Noel Pearson. His three-part portrait of our nation frames who we are.

In his words:

  • Our Indigenous foundation of 65,000 years.

  • Our British institutions. 

  • And our remarkable multicultural present and future. 

Noel’s words capture so much of what is mighty about this country: the things we should celebrate, be thankful for, and fight to strengthen.

A country with extraordinary advantages of geography and resources, and the generous sharing of the oldest continuing culture in the world.

A country that since the end of World War Two — in less time than an average life span — has welcomed 7.5 million migrants including 950,000 refugees to our country.

On my way to the United Kingdom in May I called in on one of those migrants, Australia’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Ridwaan Jadwat. 

As a non-white person born in apartheid South Africa, Ridwaan was denied his full human rights, until he migrated with his family to Australia as a boy. 

Today, Ridwaan says he still pinches himself that he now serves a country in which diversity, as he said in a recent speech, “is absolutely fundamental to who we are and where we are going as a people.”

Ridwaan is one of the many Australians who are showing their brilliance on the global stage.

In April this year, Katherine Bennell-Pegg became the first to qualify as an astronaut under the Australian flag when she graduated from the European Space Agency program.

In the same week, Bigambul and Kamilaroi artist Archie Moore’s extraordinary exhibition kith and kin won the Golden Lion Award for Best National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the first time in history an Australian artist has received this accolade.

And nearly a year ago, during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the remarkable young women of the Matildas seized our imaginations with their skill, their courage, their camaraderie, and their sheer verve — their willingness to take the game on. And to not stop until it is done.

The thoughts and excited hopes of all Australians go with them — and also with our entire Olympic and Paralympic teams — as they take the stage in Paris over the next two months. We are all going to be terribly excited to watch our teams in action.

Whenever I think of what we as a people can do, I think of the extraordinary quality and range of the recipients of the Australian of the Year Awards.

The writers, doctors, advocates, actors, scientists, soldiers, volunteers and sports people, among many others, whose courage and imagination have inspired us. There are some in the gallery joining us today.

I think of the current recipients, Professor Georgina Long AO and Professor Richard Scolyer AO, who pioneered a breakthrough treatment for melanoma — our national cancer as it’s called — that has saved many thousands of lives.

Professor Scolyer, as you would all know, then applied their treatment to his own seemingly incurable brain cancer — an act of astonishing, go-for-broke bravery that seems just so typically Australian to me.

Many Australians make a less prominent — but also indispensable — contribution to their communities every single day.

As your Governor-General, and with Simeon, we will attend many functions and meet many Australians who make such contributions. 

We hope to encourage these Australians to lift up their voices, so that we can all hear them and learn of their courage, imagination and care for our community.

We hope to share their stories and, when appropriate, to pass them on to those who govern this country.

We will visit places often overlooked and will pay attention to Australians who have much to teach us. 

Undertaking such work is perhaps what another former holder of this Office, Sir Ninian Stephen, meant when he described the role of Governor-General as “depicting a nation to its people.”

If I can capture in a few words my aspirations for our country, I believe that these testing times call for an unstinting focus on kindness, on care and on respect.

Across my career, and particularly in the past decade, I have seen how care can be an uplifting force. 

I’ve seen it in reform of workplaces, where inclusion and respect now prevail.

I’ve seen it in our renewed focus on the roles of teachers, nurses, care workers, and all frontline workers — not just during the crises of bushfires, floods and COVID-19, although very much amplified by those times.

I’ve seen it in the advancement of women in all parts of our society. In leadership roles. In sport. In economics and our regulators. Even, slowly but importantly, in the trades and on building sites. 

While too much paid and unpaid care still falls to women, we are now focused on addressing that challenge, while also encouraging men to confidently take on care roles and responsibilities with pride.

That’s good not just for women and men, but for our economy and our entire Australian society.

Care is at the heart of our distress at the shocking number of deaths of women through family violence. 

And at the heart of our growing acceptance and celebration of cultural, sexual and gender diversity in all its forms.

Our focus on mental health, particularly for young Australians, is an act of care. As is the focus on our aged and disability sectors, where respect and dignity will define that care.

I hope we can continue to extend that sense of care to our stunningly beautiful continent, landscapes and natural environment. 

But also to our institutions, public debates, and sense of civic responsibility.

To the way in which we challenge ourselves and one another, and engage in the contest of ideas that will guide the tough decisions that are needed for our country to thrive. 

Care has a deep and resonant place in our Australian identity. Care is the gentle thought and the outstretched hand that Australians have always been ready to share when great challenges present themselves. Care is the quieter, better part of ourselves. And it is that sense of care that Simeon and I will seek to depict and amplify as we take on this role.

I could not have attained this position, or any position I have been lucky to fill, without the friendship, loyalty and care of people around me.

Many of whom I’ve expressed my thanks to today. 

I wish above all to acknowledge my husband, Simeon, and our daughter, Lotte.

Knowing that their lives will be profoundly changed by my appointment, they have shown me only grace and love in their support. I thank them with all my heart.

Prime Minister, everyone in the Chamber, and all Australians, I am ready and able to undertake the role you have entrusted in me.

I will be an optimistic, modern and visible Governor-General, committed to the service and contribution that all Australians expect and deserve from the holder of this Office. 

Ahead of her time, Dame Quentin Bryce described the role of the Office "as striking a balance between observing traditions and protocol and being thoroughly contemporary."

I will remain alive to changing expectations and needs, whilst holding fast to respect for the role and its place in our peaceful democracy. 

I believe that our democracy is the golden thread that unites Australians across this vast continent and down the generations.

I am keen to begin the work of professionally and conscientiously discharging my executive and constitutional responsibilities. 

Presiding over meetings of the Executive Council. 

Leading and administering our honours and awards system. 

And when called upon, to be Australia’s representative in international engagements.

Most of all, Simeon and I look forward to engaging with Australians, in the many places we will visit. 

As long as I hold this post, I will do my utmost to reflect your hopes and aspirations.

To stand with you in tough times, and to celebrate your victories, great and small.

To listen to you, to learn from you, and as Sir William Deane might have said, to walk with you.

We can be optimistic, confident and proud as we build our extraordinary nation’s future together.

Thank you.