Quentin Bryce: Highlights of the Governor-General’s five years in office


Posted 2 hours 23 minutes ago

During her five years as Governor-General, Quentin Bryce has met thousands of Australians, visited dozens of countries, and hosted scores of foreign dignitaries.

As the Queen’s representative in Australia, Ms Bryce fulfilled important constitutional and ceremonial roles, and also attended numerous community events.

Her term is due to end in March, when former Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove takes up the position.

Here are some of the memorable moments from Ms Bryce’s past five years.

September 2008: Term begins

Ms Bryce is sworn in as Australia’s 25th Governor-General and is the first woman to fill the position.


During a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra, she remarked:

As I travel over our rich and testing country – into the vibrant and struggling sectors of our community, to our rural and remote places – forever deep in my heart I promise to be alive, open, responsive and faithful to the contemporary thinking and working of Australian society.

Australians, you have entrusted a great deal to me. I will honour your trust wholeheartedly.

Quentin Bryce, speaking at her swearing-in ceremony


March 2009: Africa tour

Ms Bryce embarked on a three-week, nine-nation tour of Africa in a bid to demonstrate Australia’s growing engagement with the continent.

But it also emerged the trip was about helping Australia win a seat on the UN Security Council.

That prompted criticism from the Opposition who complained the Governor-General’s role was becoming too political.


The then-minister for foreign affairs, Stephen Smith, defended Ms Bryce’s journey.

“During her visit to Africa, the Governor-General will underscore the point that Australia wants to enhance its engagement with Africa,” he said.

“Reflecting our strong support for the United Nations, we are running for the Security Council. During her visit to Africa, the Governor-General will remind those she meets of that fact, as appropriate.

“It is a nonsense to suggest that the Governor-General be ‘negotiating’ or ‘bargaining’ for a seat on the Security Council.”

April 2011: Royal wedding

Ms Bryce and her husband Michael joined then-prime minister Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London.

Following the announcement of their engagement, Ms Bryce commented the news had “warmed our nation’s heart”.

Often admired for her sartorial choices, the Governor-General wore a hot pink, red and orange silk brocade two-piece suit and matching pink patent stilettos.


A total of 2,000 guests were invited inside Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding, and Ms Bryce was among the select group of 600 that went on to the reception at Buckingham Palace.

During her trip to London, Ms Bryce also laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial to commemorate Anzac Day, before travelling to Oxford for a special meeting with university academics and Australian Rhodes scholars.

September 2012: Refugee camp visit

The Governor-General was reduced to tears while visiting a refugee camp in Jordan to meet with some of the thousands who have fled unrest in Syria.

After Ms Bryce spoke to a small group of mothers, the woman known for her poise could not hold back her tears.


People like me, we have no understanding of the risks, the dangers, the constant anxiety, how draining that must be, how debilitating. And I can see in their eyes the extreme weariness that’s come from such long nights and days and constant worry.

Quentin Bryce, speaking at the Al Zaatari refugee camp


October 2013: Offers to quit

Following the appointment of Bill Shorten as new Labor leader, Ms Bryce offered to resign.

Her daughter Chloe is married to Mr Shorten and the Governor-General wanted to avoid any perception of bias.

However, new Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked her to stay on and complete her term.


“Her Excellency … has served the people of Australia with distinction and has provided a gracious note to our constitutional arrangements through her widespread engagement with the community,” he said.

“I believe it is only fit and proper that she be permitted to conclude her term and be accorded the appropriate farewell that her exemplary service merits.”

November 2013: Boyer Lecture

Ms Bryce delivered the year’s final Boyer Lecture in which she backed both gay marriage and Australia becoming a republic.

She said she hoped Australia might become a nation where “people are free to love and marry whom they choose… and where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state”.


It was the first time a governor-general had publicly supported a republic while still serving as the Queen’s representative.

While the republican movement applauded her comments, others said the Governor-General had crossed the line by voicing opinions on two sensitive political issues.

Mr Abbott said she was entitled to express her own personal opinion.


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