It’s an honour to rise today as a representative of the people of Indi to pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to her life spent in service to the Commonwealth and to the way she fulfilled her duty with dignity, honour and good humour. We come together to express our gratitude for her unwavering service, her grace and her devotion. This service, across many decades, spanned extraordinary global change, and, throughout it all, Queen Elizabeth was steadfast in her leadership—a constant presence in a sea of change who quietly, incrementally, accepted that changing world.
While we saw the public side, we know she was also a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Our thoughts are with King Charles III and with her family at this time.
Queen Elizabeth II was the most famous woman in the world. But death comes to all of us, and her passing brings us back to our shared humanity as we reflect on our own experiences of grief and mortality. For her own generation, there was a sense of a parallel life, of similar experiences shared—including, as a young woman, taking shelter from the Blitz and being an active duty member of the British Armed Forces. The Queen, while staunch in tradition, showed that she could adapt to the times—illustrated when she presented the Beatles with MBEs, despite some significant backlash—and this continued through the decades, with this year’s Platinum Jubilee and a video of the Queen clinking her teacup along to the beat of the classic Queen song, ‘We Will Rock You’.
Over her 70 years of service, Her Majesty made 16 visits to Australia, and in Indi we are proud to have our own little connection of when Her Majesty’s tour in 1954 brought her to Goorambat and Benalla. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed the night on the royal train at the tiny, tiny town of Goorambat on 4 March 1954, before attending a series of events in Benalla the next day. The train station had been decorated with greenery, bunting and flags, an archway was erected on the track by the Goorambat CWA members, and many, many people came to wave to the royal couple. The next day in Benalla people had travelled from far and wide to see the Queen and Prince. The Benalla Ensign reported that she’d captured the hearts of the 40,000 people who had thronged to town to welcome her. That was about five times the population of Benalla at that time. One person who was there was Coral Hall, who wrote, on the website Great Australian Story, of her school trip to see the Queen that day in Benalla. Coral wrote:
Queen Elizabeth 11 was coming to Australia, and coming to Benalla! It was hard to believe.
… … …
Suddenly a cheer rose up as the large black royal Rolls Royce turned onto the cycling track. “Here she comes”, cried out our teacher. We all began to wave our Australian flags, and as the royal car was completely open, we could get a quick view of our Queen. I think it took 12 seconds to pass. I did not get time to look at Prince Philip. My short glimpse revealed a very pretty young lady wearing a small hat and waving a white-gloved hand.
… I wondered to myself; her hat was lovely but where was her crown? I was only twelve and a half, from a rural farm and I thought all queens wore crowns.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip also visited Albury in 1988, when tens of thousands of people turned out to greet the royals. The Border Mail reported that the Queen was gifted flowers from Laos migrants and a coat hanger from a woman from Yackandandah.
In my electorate of Indi, many messages of condolence from local people have been shared with my office. Almost every message left for the Queen by the people of Indi spoke of her service and her devotion to others. They said that she was an inspiration. One message simply said, ‘I’m going to miss your smile.’
And we will miss Her Majesty in many ways, but, in doing that, we can reflect on a life well lived, on devoted service, on duty fulfilled with compassion and love and on the value of public service, by a woman who understood that transition and change is inevitable and good and to be embraced. Australia is a vastly different nation today to the one that the young Queen visited all those years ago, and she knew that. As the chapter is closed on the second Elizabethan era, we are now rightfully and respectfully challenged, I believe, to acknowledge and reconcile with our complete history—to truly hear the voices of our First Nations Australians and write the next chapter of our Australian nation.
Vale, Queen Elizabeth II. Rest in peace. You have served us honourably.