National Memorial Service for Queen Elizabeth

Speech
22 Sep 2022
Prime Minister

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, parliamentary colleagues, fellow Australians.

We gather today - around our nation - to offer Australia’s thanks for an extraordinary life dedicated to service, faith, country and Commonwealth.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-serving monarch in the history of a centuries-old institution.

Her reign spanned more than half the life of our modern Federation.

And we proudly honour her memory today on a continent home to the world’s oldest continuous culture - paying respect to traditional owners and elders past, present and emerging.

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This national day of mourning salutes a sovereign who served our whole country – and sought to know it too.

Our vibrant cities. Our beautiful country towns.

Farmlands and forests. Rugged coasts and red centre.

Mighty stadiums and local sporting grounds, grand galleries and humble halls.

Through 16 tours across seven decades, Queen Elizabeth visited and connected with every part of Australia.

Millions of fleeting interactions, still fondly recalled.

So many Australians have shared their memories – of a kind word, a gesture of respect, or a thoughtful act of grace in an always-busy day.

With Prince Philip at her side, The Queen embraced the scale of this vast nation: the breadth of our continent, the depth of our people’s hearts, the warmth of our humour.

We can see something of this understanding in the organisations Her Majesty served as patron:

From the RSL, a social focal point for so many towns and suburbs, to the Royal Flying Doctors Service, an essential lifeline for people in the outback, whose fortitude The Queen spoke of with such admiration.

It is fitting that today’s commemorations in our national capital will be mirrored in communities across our country, as Australians express their own affection and respect - and celebrate The Queen’s part in their stories.

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Here in Canberra, we are reminded of The Queen’s presence in the life of our nation – and the world of change she witnessed.

In this very room, in 1988, Queen Elizabeth officially declared this building open.

Down the hill is the Old Parliament House the Queen’s father opened in 1927.

The House of Representatives in which Prime Minister Menzies fought back tears as he informed the chamber of the death of George VI and the accession of a 25 year old Princess Elizabeth.

The old Senate where the young Queen on her first tour addressed the Australian parliament summoned in her name – one of only a handful of women in the room.

The Lake - now home to Queen Elizabeth II Island - was dry for that first visit.

The Australian War Memorial had been open only 13 years, the veterans of the Great War that had inspired its construction were still in their 50s and 60s.

The mint was busily imprinting pounds, shillings and pence with the young sovereign’s profile.

Television was two years away.

Britain was our biggest trading partner and our number one source of migration.

That Australia, of 1954, where 7 million people - 70% of the population - turned out to welcome the first sovereign to visit these shores was, in virtually every respect, a different nation in a different world.

Think of the transformation that has re-defined our country since.

Through it all – in the good times and in days of trial and hardship - the Queen stood with us.

Always among the first to extend her sympathies to people and communities afflicted by tragedy or disaster.

Always taking pride in Australia’s progress, which The Queen observed with the thoughtful perspective of decades in public life.

In Adelaide, in 2002, she reflected:

"I have witnessed a steady and remarkable evolution in the character of Australia and its people.
There has been a growing confidence; an increasingly global outlook; a recognition of the distinctive contribution of Indigenous Australians; and the natural realisation that Australians can take on the best in the world and excel."

In all things - including our advance to Reconciliation - the Queen always wanted the best for our country.

She greeted every evolution in our relationship with Britain with good grace and an abiding faith in the judgement of the Australian people.

And so, amidst the noise and turbulence of the decades, the Queen endured – and so did Australia’s affection for her, our sense of connection to her.

Indeed, I believe those two truths run together: our affection held strong, because she did.

For so many, for so long, The Queen was a rare and reassuring constant in a world of change.

In an age of performative celebrity, The Queen embodied quiet dignity.

In an era of fads and fashionable causes, The Queen did not seek to chase the times - instead she held to qualities and virtues that are timeless:

Love of family
Loyalty to country
Service to community
Kindness to those in need
Respect for everyone she met

In this, she represented more than the monarchy.

She stood for things we loved and admired most about our own parents and grandparents.

Their decency, their wisdom, their patience, their work ethic, their instinct for service above self.

And - as the traditions and formalities of the past two weeks come to a close - I think something all of us can do to meaningfully honour the life of Queen Elizabeth in an ongoing way is take inspiration from her example.

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Friends,

Monuments to The Queen dot our landscape, the name of Elizabeth lives in nearly every town.

Perhaps the greatest tribute we can offer her family and her memory is not a marble statue or a metal plaque.

It is a renewed embrace of service to community.

A truer understanding of our duty to others.

A stronger commitment to respect for all.

This would be a most fitting memorial, to a magnificent life.

May Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second rest in eternal peace.