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Saturday, 5 February 2022
Government House
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Yvonne, thank you for your warm Welcome to Country. And thank you to the Koomurri Dancers – of all ages! – for your special contribution to this ceremony.

I acknowledge the Gadigal, the Traditional Owners of the land on which Government House stands and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. In their language, I welcome you:

Bujari gamarruwa

Diyn Babana Gamarada Gadigal Ngura.

Chief Justice, Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Seventy years ago, it was a blisteringly hot day here in Sydney. The front page of the Herald carried the headline “Fire Danger Today Extreme” and warned of “extremely dangerous bushfire conditions throughout NSW”[1]. But the main image on the front page was unrelated to the weather. It featured the construction of a steel grandstand being built on the foreshore at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, intended “to accommodate about 2,000 State dignitaries when Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive in Sydney.”

On the same day, Tuesday the 5th of February, the 25-year-old Princess and Prince Philip were enjoying a brief respite from their Royal duties at a remote game viewing lodge perched high up in the tree-tops in Kenya. In two days, they were due to sail to Ceylon and then onto Sydney for that much anticipated visit.

But it was not to be.

The following day she received the news that her dear father, George VI, had passed away in his sleep. Reporting from Nairobi, the BBC’s Frank Gillard filed a report:

How tragic to think that even this morning, as she sat at breakfast, talking about her father, and proudly describing how bravely he'd stood up to his illness, how well he'd recovered - sitting there in her yellow bush shirt and brown slacks - even at that moment her father was lying dead and she had succeeded to his vast responsibilities.[2]

And so, on the 6th of February 1952, the Princess had become the Queen.

The tour was abandoned and the Queen and Prince Philip immediately flew back to Britain.

Lord Wakehurst, Governor of New South Wales from 1937 to 1946 and the last British-born Governor,[3] produced a film of this era which is featured on the Royal website in which he reminds us that in this moment of sadness “the end is also a beginning.”[4]

As we now know, it was the beginning of something quite extraordinary; seventy years of wisdom, strength and unrelenting service.

Although the 1952 visit to Australia was abandoned, two years later, almost to the day, Her Majesty and Prince Philip sailed into Sydney Harbour to be greeted by an estimated one million people gathered on the foreshores – over half of our city’s population at the time.[5]

In Sydney, the Queen and Duke stayed at Government House. Over their ten days of official duties in New South Wales, they attended 28 major events, including a number here at the House. 

On your way in today, you may have noticed on the left-hand side of the driveway the melaleuca tree with its unique white bark planted by Her Majesty during her visit. Here in our gardens, we also have the majestic casuarina trees planted by Prince Charles and Princess Anne during their visit in 1970. Throughout Her reign, The Queen has planted more than 1,500 trees all over the world[6] and has spoken of the importance of trees in the Earth’s future.

So today, in response to Her call to 'plant a tree for the Jubilee,' I will ceremonially plant a red oak – a beautiful tree regarded as a symbol of wisdom, strength and endurance[7] – the qualities so consistently demonstrated by our Sovereign of over the seven decades of Her reign.

We will host other Jubilee events throughout the year, particularly on the occasion of the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June.

In the lead-up to tomorrow’s anniversary I have extended, on behalf of the NSW community, a personal message of best wishes to Her Majesty, to thank her for the peerless leadership, that has marked her 70 years as Sovereign. A gift has also been personally delivered to Her Majesty by the NSW Agent-General in London. This gift from the people of NSW is a bottle of gin, distilled from Australian botanicals, and crafted by the award-winning Joadja Distillery in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. 

Its presentation box was designed and constructed by  skilled craftsmen from the Nepean Men’s Shed from the wood of a 70-year-old pin oak that had fallen in the grounds of Government House during the violent storms in February 2020. 

It was those storms that helped to put out the severe bushfires of that terrible summer. We remember Her Majesty’s warm message of support conveyed to our NSW community during that difficult time.[8]

I should add that the presentation box is a superb piece of craftsmanship and the Men's Shed are shortly to be advised of its destination. They will be so proud.

In her Christmas Broadcast last year, The Queen said that February would see the start of Her Platinum Jubilee year, which she hoped would be an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense of togetherness; a chance to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last seventy years - social, scientific and cultural - and also to look ahead with confidence.[9]

Today, and in the coming months we also give thanks for Her Majesty’s graceful, devoted and steadfast leadership to the people of the Commonwealth.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 ‘Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith’[10] -  Long may she reign!


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