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Reception for ACT Frontline and Health Services Staff, Government House


I begin by acknowledging that Government House sits on the land of the Ngunnawal People here in the ACT. If you’re a Canberran, you’ll know what a beautiful part of the country this is. We thank them for looking after it for us, for generation after generation, and pay our respects to their elders past and present.

Good morning, all.

It is a delight for Linda and me to have you here today and to celebrate what you have achieved for the people of the ACT and beyond.

On 29 December 2019 our first grandchild was born in Sydney. Linda and I were quite busy at that time visiting communities that had just been hammered by bushfires up and down the Queensland and, by that time, Victoria coastline.

After little Charlie was about one week old we got back after one fairly horrendous day and Linda was nursing Charlie and she said to him, “I don’t know what sort of a world we’ve brought you into. It can’t get any worse than this.”

None of us have crystal balls. It did get worse – very quickly and very scarily for the vast majority of the population. It is at a time like that when people step forward and do what needs to be done for the community.

That is what we are recognising this morning and this afternoon when we’ve asked staff from our ACT Health Services and our Frontline Health Services and our hospitals to come along.

It is a very simple act: and that is, to say thank you.

What we have achieved in Australia, you have achieved – and you are the tip of the iceberg, for many other people who, unfortunately, can’t be here – has been miraculous.

In my lifetime I’ve run some fairly big operations with many moving parts, and this operation over the past two years has been one of the most complex we’ve had to handle in our national history, let alone the Territory’s history.

So, all those moving parts, from contact tracing, to quarantine, to exemption management, to making sure we know what is happening with our data – if we needed anything over the last two years it was solid, verified, truthful data – to let us know what we could do so that we could give policy advice to Ministers and decision makers. All that was absolutely critical over the last two years.

I want to thank each and every one of you and the organisations you represent for the hard work that has gone into achieving what we have achieved.

Linda and I have visited testing stations, we’ve gone out to the PCR Testing Facility, we have visited the contact tracers, spoken with medical staff and so on – we know that you have put in long hours and have been very diligent in the work that has been asked of you. Again, I say thank you.

Now, you can get lots of data, as I say, out of what we’ve just had for the last two years.

Half a million COVID-19 PCR Tests. That is not insignificant. I think I’ve had more than my share, frankly, but anyway!

Canberra Health Services clinics have administered 421,548 COVID-19 vaccine doses. If you laid all the used Pfizer syringes end-to-end they would reach almost as far as Goulburn … depending where you start from!

The ACT Health Emergency Response to the COVID-19 pandemic was set up in early 2020. Some staff in the Health Emergency Control Centre have now been working on the emergency response for almost two straight years. That is pressure. That is asking a lot from people.

We’ve had enormous collaboration across ACT Government Services, which I think is important because it puts us in good stead for the future as well. Many staff from the ACT Public Service have also come across.

And now we stand with the most successful vaccination program in the country, with about 98 per cent of ACT residents aged 12 and above having received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

They are outstanding outcomes.

Again, thank you – to your families in particular because I know there’s been long hours for many; for the hard work and intellect that’s gone into getting us to where we are and frankly putting us on a footing to be much more flexible and adaptable in what might come down the road.

Now we will start vaccinating the young generation – five-year-olds and above, through to 11 years of age. That is critical to getting on top of this. But we could not be standing here like this, without masks, if it were not for your work.

Frankly, I don’t need another three months of sitting in front of a screen, with Linda, talking with people around the country. So, from a personal level – thank you! … for sparing my eyesight and everything else that goes with it.

We are deeply indebted to you.

Enjoy your time here this morning. You’re not confined to the outsides once we have finished the formalities. If it is your first time to Government House, please feel free to wander through. Please make use of the gardens. We’ve had so few visitors this year and the gardeners have worked so hard.

Linda and I, as well as the staff at Government House, are delighted to have you here – because we all live in the ACT. The fact our kids are going to school, and we are looking forward to Christmas and so forth, is in your hands.

Thank you.