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The role of the Governor-General

The Governor-General of Australia is the Queen’s representative. In practice, they are Australia’s Head of State and have a range of constitutional and ceremonial duties. The Governor-General is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force.  

These duties are essential to Australia's modern democracy, however perhaps the most important role of the Governor-General is their work in the Australian community. Each year the Governor-General hosts or attends hundreds of events around the country and meet tens of thousands of Australians. They do this to celebrate the best of Australia and recognise the everyday Australians who, without fuss or fanfare, contribute to the lives of others and make Australia such a compassionate, harmonious and peaceful place.

Constitutional duties

The Governor-General has specific constitutional and statutory powers. The Governor-General acts on the advice of Ministers who are responsible to Parliament (and ultimately, through elections, the Australian people).

Key constitutional duties include:

  • Presiding over the Federal Executive Council
  • Facilitating the work of the Commonwealth Parliament and Government
  • Dissolving Parliament and issuing writs for a Federal election
  • Commissioning the Prime Minister; appointing Ministers and Assistant Ministers; and swearing-in other statutory positions
  • Holding and possibly exercising the Reserve Powers.

Under the Australian Constitution, the only action performed by The Queen is the appointment of the Governor-General (on the advice of the Australian Prime Minister).

Ceremonial duties

The Governor-General is the Chancellor of the Order of Australia and each year approves awards to recognise the service and contribution of outstanding Australians through the Australian Honours and Awards System.

Other ceremonial duties include:

  • Hosting visiting Heads of State and other prominent visitors to Australia
  • Receiving the credentials of newly appointed Ambassadors and High Commissioners to Australia

Commander-in-Chief duties

The Governor General is the Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

The Governor-General's duties as Commander-in-Chief include:

  • Through Federal Executive Council, appointing the Chief of Defence Force and Service Chiefs
  • Commissioning officers in the Navy, Army and Air Force
  • Presenting Colours, Banners and other Honours to military units and personnel
  • Visiting military units to acknowledge the service of service personnel
  • Leading Australia’s response, celebration and acknowledgement at commemorative events.

Community engagement

"In my closing speeches as Governor, I highlighted the richness of our society, not the material richness, but a richness of spirit.

I have seen this at work in the people and organisations assisting our veterans, our rural communities that are under stress, asylum seekers who we have accepted into our country and our aboriginal brothers and sisters.

There are countless organisations and people demonstrating how ‘rich’ this country is each day.  I am committed as Governor-General to support these people in their work."

The Governor-General in his swearing-in speech

The Governor-General encourages, articulates and represents the things that unite Australia as a nation.

This includes:

  • Travelling widely to encourage and acknowledge individuals and groups making a substantial contribution to the community
  • Making Government House and Admiralty House available for the benefit of all Australians
  • Responding quickly and compassionately on behalf of all Australians to natural disasters and events of national significance
  • Serving as Patron to national organisations that contribute to society
  • Sending congratulatory messages to Australians celebrating significant milestones and messages of support.