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Speech by His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (Retd) at a State Reception: Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria: 8 November 2004 \n

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• The Honourable Steve Bracks, Premier of Victoria and Mrs Bracks

• Lady Southey, Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria

• The Honourable The Chief Justice Marilyn Warren

• The Honourable John Thwaites, Deputy Premier

• The Honourable Monica Gould, President of The Legislative Council

• The Honourable Judy Maddigan, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly

• Mr Robert Doyle, Leader of the Opposition

• Mr Peter Ryan, Leader of the National Party

• Councillor John So, Lord Mayor of Melbourne

• Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you, Premier, for your kind welcome.

It is for Marlena and me a tremendous pleasure to be in Victoria for our first official visit; especially to be in Melbourne - in the heart of Australia’s grandest city.

And what a magnificent race last Tuesday, the second Melbourne Cup I’ve had the privilege of presenting as Governor-General. As to this year’s winner, I’m afraid I was a little careless in not taking enough notice of Lee Freedman during lunch, although I guess Tabcorp would have been happy enough to receive my modest investment.

Marlena and I love Melbourne. If we had been posted here during my army career, we may well have made this city our home. But events have taken us down a different path.

We do love the many facets of Melbourne and Victoria: the superb architecture of this city, the coastal communities, the world class arts facilities and cultural activities, the great horticultural and agricultural industries, the magnificent countryside, and the sport. Like the Premier who is a died-in-the-wool Geelong supporter, I stood fast to Carlton for as long as I can remember, until my allegiances naturally swung to the West Coast Eagles during my term as Governor of Western Australia. And I’ll be here for the Boxing Day Test.

One of the real joys of the office of Governor-General is meeting Australians from all walks of life - people whom I’ve found to be overwhelmingly decent, caring and tolerant, of great energy and talent, who are innovative and have great reserves of that wonderful Australian characteristic - of not taking themselves too seriously.

This is very much so in Victoria. The State is a landscape of diversity and of activity; it’s the place to be, the destination of choice for increasing numbers of individuals

and organisations; international and national events creating an interest in a State which is hard to resist.

The story of Victoria is a well-rounded one; its narrative includes:

• beautiful coastal, hinterland and rural goldfields settings - the Great Ocean Road; the Grampians; and Maryborough (“a railway station with a town attached” as Mark Twain described it);

• a world class wine industry with an annual turn over of $3.3 billion, supported by 2,000 grape growers supplying both interstate wineries and 420 local wine manufacturers;

• leading biotechnology research and development - 38% of Australia’s new biotech companies that have been established in the three years to 2002 are located in your State;

• first-class medical and health facilities - the Cancer Trials Australia collaboration between Melbourne hospitals and research institutes including the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research;

• leading educational projects - including the Bellarine Secondary College’s “All Age Applied Learning Centre” which focuses on improving student retention and achievement;

• internationally outstanding university and research project institutions such as the Melbourne and Monash Universities and the Howard Florey Institute - global centres of excellence;

• marvellous projects in prospect including the redevelopment of the historical Bendigo Goldfield - I understand a resource potential of at least 13 million ounces of gold has been identified beneath the old workings; and of course

• the home of Australia’s finest arts and sports facilities - the National Gallery of Victoria and the MCG.

And your State has long been a centre of innovation and adaptation.

Win part, we have learnt that from the ancient Aboriginal communities of Victoria who designed complex systems of weirs channelling streams and rivers, built stone fish traps, and had detailed knowledge about the tides and the rise and fall of river levels, along with an understanding of the relationship between land and sea; an appreciation of the rhythm of the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen, I could think of no finer venue to be in this evening than the National Gallery of Victoria. It symbolises the value Victorians place on the civilising aspects of life, epitomised in 2004 by the centenary anniversary year of the Felton Bequest - Alfred Felton’s extraordinary donation benefiting Victorian charities (particularly those that support women and children) and the remainder used to acquire and donate art works to this gallery.

As a result, more than 15,000 works have been acquired. What enormous generosity shines through one individual’s desire to give back to a community that had provided him with the opportunity to prosper - a philanthropic story repeated throughout your State by successive generations, and one to be applauded and encouraged. That message of personal contribution resounds this year in Doctor Joseph Brown’s magnificent donation of his collection to this gallery.

Earlier, in the 19th century, people increasingly wanted to proclaim their own identity, to be responsible for their own destiny, to establish self-government, independent of the remote centres of Sydney and London. As the Melbourne Morning Herald at the time of separation from New South Wales in 1851 boldly trumpeted: “Glorious News - Separation at last.”

Separation, the discovery of gold in 1851 which attracted almost half a million immigrants in a decade, and the granting of responsible government in 1856, laid significant building blocks for the future. And outstanding institutions, like the National Gallery of Victoria (which opened in 1861), were the cultural glue.

The acquisition of treasures and the construction of fine public buildings in the 19th century reflected the prosperity and taste of the times, underpinned by a young, vibrant colony, looking forward with optimism.

This dynamic capital, Melbourne, held appeal the world over. The English author, Henry Kingsley, a literary companion of Aldous Huxley and Lewis Carroll, wrote of Melbourne in the 1850s:

“I never stood in Venice contemplating the decay of the grand palaces of her old merchant princes, whose time has gone forever. I have never watched the slow downfall of a great commercial city. (But) I have seen a grand subject of contemplation…the rapid rise of (a great city). I have seen what will, I think, never be seen again. I have seen Melbourne.”

There were of course other sentiments emerging - expressions of a uniquely Australian character. The Premier has spoken of the impact of Eureka in Ballarat, a microcosm of multiculturalism, giving voice to independence, freedom and identity. Ballarat laid out the welcome mat for many people - for example the officers of the US Confederate Ship Shenandoah who were entertained at the Royal Hotel there in 1865.

And the great legends - Dame Nellie Melba, native of Melbourne, who literally gave voice to the emergence of superb Australian performance and the cultural reservoir of Victoria. In 2004 we celebrate the centenary of the first release of the diva’s recordings.

Ladies and gentlemen.

We still think of ourselves as a young country, and yes, in many ways we are. We know there is much more ahead of us, more to be achieved. And it’s within this context of moving forward that, in my role as Governor-General, I see a number of issues I would like to know more about, and address in a non-political way. For example, water, salinity and the environment, education (including literacy and numeracy in the very young), indigenous affairs, family and youth, national security in a total sense, science and innovation, governance, and promoting our fundamental values as a nation.

I think these are all matters about which we as a community should have mature, open and robust debate - but debate devoid of rancour and continued controversy, where people are genuinely prepared to listen to and understand other points of view, and to give and take a bit, as we work together to build a lasting national consensus on the things that really count in securing Australia’s long-term future.

So what are some of my key interests?

My single most important message is to encourage Australians to aspire to become

what I call a “Nation of Excellence - the Global Example”.

A nation whose people - both individually and collectively - strive to be the very best at everything we turn our minds to.

There are some inspiring, worthy examples.

The School Volunteer Program. Recently in Western Australia, I launched the School Volunteer Program as a national organisation.

It is one-on-one contact between approximately 3,000 grandparent equivalent volunteers and students with learning problems, spending time at schools, giving wise counsel where it’s needed, making sensible use of the largely untapped potential of older Australians, raising literacy and numeracy skills, raising self esteem.

I believe in ‘getting in early’, ensuring, as a minimum, that all children are at least literate and numerate by age seven, that we attempt to sever the connection between poor reading, writing and numeracy skills and adolescent and later life problems.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to see the School Volunteer Program expanded nationally with tens of thousands of motivated mentor volunteers in the coming years, because education is a significant key to the alleviation of poverty and the provider of genuine opportunity.

School Chaplaincy. I strongly endorse the School Chaplaincy program which is growing in Victoria and throughout Australia - a program that complements the School Volunteer Program. Besides traditional instruction, pastoral care and counselling, the chaplain deals with personal problems at school, broken family relationships, truancy, child and sexual abuse, suicide, illness, births, deaths, drugs, alcoholism, accommodation, financial needs, study skills and relationship problems.

Today, we find the chaplain becoming an increasingly necessary surrogate parent in a country where around 1 million young people live in a single parent home; whose head is mostly the mother, and for many of whom, through no fault of their own, often find themselves living in difficult circumstances.

In each of the Australian states the program is growing rapidly, and surveys of school principals have found overwhelmingly that the chaplains are seen as irreplaceable.

In an economic sense alone, a chaplain on less than $50,000 p.a. has only to save one youngster in a school of 1,000 students from detention for a year to save the equivalent of over twice that chaplain's salary.

The Teaching Profession. I believe the teaching profession deserves to be elevated in status.

Teachers develop pathways into the future, equipping and inspiring our young citizens of the 21st century - they are most likely the ones that stir within students the desire to look ahead, to seek truth, to encourage respect for others.

That’s what I see time and again as I travel throughout Australia, visiting the smallest of one teacher schools in the outback, the schools and TAFE Colleges in regional and metropolitan centres, and in our innovative, dynamic universities.

What I have found universally is that it is the educational experience that most influences the quality of lives, offers choice, fosters independence, and promotes potential. Teachers share the privilege of being able to influence and to inspire. I want teaching to be seen and respected as the noble profession, and there are ways in which we all can work together to make that happen.

Ladies and gentlemen.

May I say how very proud I am of the Victorians prepared to volunteer their time and services so willingly to their communities. Almost a third of metropolitan Melburnians are volunteers, and together with some 43% of people outside Melbourne, they contribute to community and welfare projects, sport and recreation activities, and religious and youth development programs. That’s a compelling message of involvement, of people prepared to “have a go”, not for self-interest but founded on the desire to help others in need.

Yesterday at Tongala, Marlena and I participated in the dedication and unveiling of the “Avenue of Honour”, commemorating Australians who died in Vietnam in service as members of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, and recalling their hardship, resilience, good humour, esprit de corps and ultimate sacrifice. The people of Tongala who voluntarily developed this memorial have shown what a proud and self-sufficient community they are, that they possess a great depth of spirit and respect for others.

Tomorrow we have the great pleasure of opening the “Marlu” Art Exhibition being hosted by the Werribee Secondary School in conjunction with the Salvation Army. The proceeds of the exhibition will assist aboriginal women suffering from domestic violence and substance abuse. I was very much attracted to this event by the warmth of the invitation from the school principal, staff and students. Clearly they aspire to the school motto: “Live worthily”.

On Wednesday we will visit Yarra Junction Fire Station to meet the volunteer members of seven local Country Fire Authority brigades - part of the 1,240 strong brigade service across Victoria. I very much look forward to meeting these well-trained, enthusiastic people who contribute so much to community safety and emergency management in managing wildfire, structural fire and vehicle accidents. I am particularly keen to talk with the 13 juniors (secondary school-aged volunteers) who are the lynchpin of the CFA’s local succession planning.

I warmly commend that commitment, and Marlena and I look forward to meeting many more volunteers in Victoria during my term encouraging them and drawing attention to their thoughtfulness and generosity.

Premier Bracks, ladies and gentlemen.

Marlena and I are greatly enjoying our time in Victoria, and it’s been an honour to be with such a large, distinguished and diverse group of representatives of your State.

We thank you most sincerely for your hospitality and the generous support you’ve shown us so early in our period of office.

We wish you every success in your individual and collective endeavours, and we look forward to enhancing our knowledge of Victoria and its people through future visits.

Thank you.