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Friday, 23 September 2022
Page: 72

Ms CATHERINE KING (BallaratMinister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (15:31): In speaking on this condolence motion, I want to convey the thanks of the people of Ballarat for Her Majesty's 70 years of service. In reflecting on Her Majesty's life, I am, and have been in the past 15 days, acutely conscious that many First Nations people have been grieving this week, for loss of place, culture and identity. I do believe, in the complex nature of this nation, there is room to both acknowledge and respect the role Her Majesty has played throughout her life and, at the same time, understand its place in our history. That is, after all, how we change: by recognising who we are as a nation—all of our history in its complexity and how it has been experienced differently by different peoples and by respecting those experiences and working together to shape what comes next. It's in that spirit that I wish to acknowledge the rich contribution of Queen Elizabeth II to our Australian story.

It seems unfathomable to all of us that, at the age of 25, someone could dedicate 70 years of their life to the service of the community with such grace, dignity and care and such constancy. The story of the past 70 years tells an extraordinary story of our nation's progress. From 1954, with the Queen's first visit to our shores, the nation was a very different place, and my home town of Ballarat was very different, too.

Since its founding, Ballarat has had a long history of royal visits. In the 19th century we welcomed Prince Alfred and Prince George, and in the 20th we welcomed more dukes, princes and assorted royalty than I could name. But the two visits that have meant the most in our living history and of which memories remain the strongest are of course the visits of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1954 and in 2000, the people of Ballarat came out to welcome the Queen. If you look at the photos from 1954, it looks like the entire town of Ballarat was there, decked out in their best and crowding the streets for the very best view. The photos of the Queen in the Botanic Gardens at the—then only second—Ballarat Begonia Festival are very much part of our local history. It was reported that she said: 'We grow begonias as big as saucers, but you as big as dinner plates.' By the year 2000, the crowds along Sturt Street hadn't thinned. I was elected the year after her visit. If you talk to anyone who lived in Ballarat at the time, we have very clear memories of the day, whether it be of gathering with family, friends or school groups, or of some of the gorgeous women in our community dressed up in tiaras and pearls as they greeted her. I've never actually been able to confirm this story, but local legend tells us that there was some controversy that helicopters were hired to be flown down the main street the day before her visit to ensure that any lose acorns were blown from the trees, as there was great concern that Her Majesty would slip on one or roll her ankle on her walk down Sturt Street. We showed her our best on those occasions, whether it was through the beautiful Begonia Festival in 1954 or at our famous Sovereign Hill in 2000. I'm also pleased to report that the new King has also been to Ballarat and to Sovereign Hill.

When you think of those two visits to Ballarat, it's impossible not to reflect on how much our community and our city have changed over those years. In 1954, we were still a small town in a distant corner of the world. By 2000, Ballarat and the world had changed, and we've been changing ever since. Through all of that change, there has been a constant: a woman of extraordinary dedication to service, to duty, to family and to people. The people of Ballarat send our condolences to King Charles III and his family—it's a time of grief for them—and we wish him all the very best for the years to come.