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Farewell to Queensland

By Wendy McCarthy AO - posted Thursday, 31 July 2008

Graham Freudenberg has lamented the near death of the Australian public meeting (in the foreword to Men and Women of Australia - Our Greatest Modern Speeches, edited by Michael Fullilove). Justice Michael Kirby persists however in the belief that great ideas, when reduced to words, can still move human beings to strive for a fairer nation and a better world (in foreword to Stirring Australian Speeches - The definitive collection from Botany to Bali, edited by Michael Cathcart and Kate Darian-Smith). On Tuesday July, 29, a great Australian and gracious veteran of the public meeting concluded her term as Governor of Queensland. These are Quentin Bryce’s parting words to her beloved home state delivered to an audience of 300 members of the Queensland community last week at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane.

Accompanied to the stage by Queensland’s first female Premier and with Picasso’s name big and bold on the spectacular glass backdrop, Australia’s soon-to-be first female Governor-General spoke of the essence of the vice-regal role and signaled her thoughts for a fairer nation and a better world. I was fortunate to be there. Perhaps it is timely now to consider this preface to her significant national role.


I acknowledge the Turrbal clan, the traditional keepers of this magnificent land at river’s edge - Kurilpa, place of the water rat.

My friends, welcome to this gorgeous place and thank you for sharing this special occasion with me.

From where I stand you are a glimpse of Queensland; an honest measure of our vast depth and reach; a gauge of our progress and our work still to be done; an inspiration for future good, a reason to feel hopeful. Individually, you are, you stand for, our most prominent achievers, our powerful drivers, our quiet leaders, our sung and unsung, our most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Your energies and efforts fill up whole sectors and flow into others - community, government, indigenous, creative, artistic, corporate, disability, ecumenical, sporting, rural and regional - collectively, the fabric and lining of contemporary Queensland. The greatest motivation to me in my role as Governor.


David Malouf has said that in choosing only what is significant, we can easily miss what is most humanly valuable; we deprive ourselves of what is dense with ordinary life and living, like our own.

Rather, we must give the ordinary its due, allow ourselves to see its value in our ordinary lives, treat the commonplace as remarkable, and the remarkable as commonplace.

Like this place - this ample precinct of colour, freedom, insight and light, of simple joys - buildings I often come to: to sit on a bench to follow the brush strokes on a wall, to cradle a fragile manuscript, to connect with lost lives seeping through ageing cracks, to be spellbound by indigenous dreaming and dance, and warmed by the march of prams and parents whose trails touch every pathway here.

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This is an edited version of Quentin Bryce's farewell speech at the Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland, on Sunday, July 20, 2008.

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About the Author

Wendy McCarthy AO began her career as a secondary school teacher and remains passionate about the power of education. For four decades she has been a teacher, educator and change agent in Australian public life.

In 2005 she was nominated by the Sydney Morning Herald as one of Australia’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals. She has worked with government, corporations and community based organisations in education, women’s issues, public health, heritage, media and waste management and she has held national leadership roles in all of these areas. It is this eclectic combination that gives her a unique profile and network nationally and internationally. She has represented Australia at conferences on women’s health and leadership, education, broadcasting, conservation and heritage and for four years was Chair of the Advisory Committee of WHO Kobe Centre, Japan.

In 2005 Wendy completed a decade as Chancellor of the University of Canberra. Wendy was a founding member of the Australian Chancellors’ Conference. Her corporate advisory practice, McCarthy Mentoring, specialises in providing mentors to major corporations and the public sector.

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