Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Accession of His Majesty King Charles III


I rise to add my condolences, and those of the community I represent, on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In preparing to speak today, I was struck, like many in the chamber—many of whom have expressed it—by the longevity of the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth. In doing so, and in doing the research around the questions we've all been asking in preparation for today, I wondered: did the Queen visit my electorate? And the answer for me was proudly yes. She did in 1954. Young Queen Elizabeth visited just the outskirts of the electorate.

I notice the member for Gellibrand is here, and I'm going to be talking about the Queen's visit to Point Cook, to RAAF Base Williams, in 1954. I note that, while there may be a few exceptions, most of us in this room weren't born when she visited RAAF Base Williams in Point Cook that day. It was a warm summer day, and she was returning—the member for Corangamite is in front of me—from Geelong, where she had been that day. The train came back through and stopped at Aircraft station, and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip travelled to do a review, if you like, of the troops. What was important that day was that she was visiting the first RAAF base in Australia—the oldest RAAF base in Australia—but, more importantly, that the women's units from across Melbourne were there. It was noted in the Age two days later that the car that the Queen was travelling in slowed down for her to take special notice of the women in the RAAF at Point Cook that day.

It got me thinking about her reign, and I think it's worth noting this length of tenure. The best way that I can explain that to my community is the fact that, on her first visit, in 1954, Her Majesty was welcomed by Sir William Slim as Governor-General and Robert Menzies as Prime Minister. In her last visit, those positions were filled by Dame Quentin Bryce and Ms Julia Gillard.

Many have noted today how much the world had changed in that 70-year span. I want to focus on how much the world had changed for women. This whole thing has got me thinking about my mum—who I obviously lost quite recently, and most people know that—who was a great fan of Queen Elizabeth and a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth. It got me thinking about what it would have meant to my 23-year-old mother when Elizabeth ascended to the throne and became Queen, and what it meant to all the women of her generation. We often say of that generation that they're known for their stoicism, for their practicality and for the way they dealt with life. I think Queen Elizabeth led them in the development of those things that we say about that generation of people.

I wonder about my young mother, before having children, watching Elizabeth become Queen and having that 70-year journey with her, watching a woman as a leader in a very male dominated industry. Let's be blunt—other than Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I, it is a very male dominated industry. They became aware, and they asked questions, I assume, that wouldn't have been asked had Elizabeth not been Queen. Queen Elizabeth being Queen caused them to observe and to ask questions of themselves and of their lifestyle. In doing so, she changed not just the way the women in Australia and across the Commonwealth saw their roles but possibly the way their husbands and partners saw women as well. That played a major part in the reason I'm sitting here in the House of Representatives today surrounded by my female colleagues.

So I think there's something really important about Elizabeth's reign that we should pause to remember, because it was Elizabeth leaving her child at home to tour Australia. Questions would have been asked: 'Could I be the Queen? Could I leave my children for the eight or 10 weeks that this was going to take?' They asked questions and then answered those questions in their own daughters' and sons' lives by changing expectations about their roles and seeing that the Queen was able to be an international leader and be a mother, a grandmother and a greatgrandmother. Rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth—and I hope my mum and you are sharing a cup of tea right now.

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