The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
SIR PETER COSGROVE
Iwas six years old when I joined thousands of people to see Australia’s new Queen. Standing in a crowd 10-deep along South Dowling St in Sydney, homemade periscope at the ready, I searched past the suits and frocks to spy Her Majesty during her first visit to Australia in 1954.
I am not entirely sure if I saw her that day, but perhaps that is what the Queen is all about — not necessarily seeing, but being in a society where she is a presence. It conveys a sense of stability and certainty, part of our system of government, our democracy, the way we have done things.
For most Australians, the Queen is the only British monarch we have ever known. Her reign has been a source of continuity for not only our country, but for the Commonwealth and our changing world.
And in just over a week, we will mark a significant milestone in her life.
On September 9, the Queen will become the longest-reigning British monarch, surpassing her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years, seven months and three days.
To put this into perspective, Queen Elizabeth II has been Head of the Commonwealth through the terms of 15 Australian governors-general and 13 prime ministers; she has addressed parliamentarians in Old Parliament House and opened new Parliament House; and she has met Australians in every state and territory over 16 separate visits.
Many Australians will recall the Queen’s visits, including for the opening of our landmark Sydney Opera House in 1973, and the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and 2006, and perhaps even her enjoying the sights and sounds of the Ekka!
As we approach this historic milestone, there is an opportunity to acknowledge not only the Queen’s length of service, but the job done.
The Queen has carried out her role with poise, dignity and grace. In 1953, the Queen swore an oath to govern the people of Commonwealth realms “according to their respective laws and customs” and, for over 60 years, she has upheld that oath through her support of the decisions and choices made by Australians.
The Queen’s stewardship of the Westminster system and the relationship she has demonstrated between the Head of State and democratic government has been an ingredient in making that system enviable in its durability and stability.
Australia continues to be a beneficiary of that legacy. While modern Australian has changed over the past six decades, the Queen’s presence both personally and symbolically has been a warm and familiar one for our country.
I first experienced that presence many years ago on a Sydney street. And now, as GovernorGeneral, I can say Australia is thankful for her enduring service.