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Sir William Deane’s Speech On the Centenary of the Australian Parliament

The Governor-General, Sir William Deane, presided at the opening of the Commemorative Meeting of the Commonwealth Parliament.

DeaneThe joint sitting of the Parliament took place in Melbourne’s Exhibition Building.

The Centenary of Federation joint sitting took place one hundred years to the day since the First Commonwealth Parliament met in 1901.

The First Parliament met in Melbourne’s Parliament House until it moved to Canberra in 1927.

During that time – 1901-1927 – the Victorian Parliament met in the Exhibition Building.

Text of address by Governor-General Sir William Deane to the Joint Commemorative Meeting of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.

At the outset, I acknowledge the Wurundjeri people on whose ancestral land we are privileged to be gathered.

I have received the following message from Her Majesty The Queen:

I extend to all of you gathered in the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, especially to the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives through whom all the people of Australia are represented on this historic occasion, my congratulations on the one hundredth anniversary of the Commonwealth Parliament. Since the ninth of May, 1901, when my grandfather, commissioned by, and in the name of, my great-grandfather, opened the first Commonwealth Parliament, Australia has established and nurtured one of the best parliamentary democracies in the world. I have every confidence that that democracy will continue to flourish in the centuries ahead.

I have also received the following message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother:

I offer my congratulations to the Commonwealth Parliament on its Centenary. I remember so well our visit in May 1927 when my husband opened the provisional Parliament House in Canberra and how touched we were by the warmth of the welcome we received.

I have such fond memories of my visits to Australia and I send to all Australians my best wishes for happiness and prosperity in the years ahead.

On this day in this magnificent building in 1901, our nation’s central democratic institution, the Parliament of the Commonwealth, came alive.

Throughout the following century, that Parliament has been the focal point of our national political life Ö the place and the means whereby national laws are made, national governments are controlled, national aspirations are articulated and pursued and national questions are debated and determined.

Over the years, the overwhelming majority of our Commonwealth parliamentarians have served Australia with dedication and integrity. As a nation, we have known a century of democratic rule, uninterrupted by military conquest, civil war or dictatorship of the left or right. Truly, we have much to celebrate as we look back on the first century of the life of the Parliament and of the democracy of which it is the keystone.

At the same time, we must look to the future and to the challenges which lie ahead. For the strong and vibrant democracy, which we have inherited, must never be taken for granted.

One challenge is for our democratic institutions to remain stable and yet be responsive enough to meet the aspirations and expectations of the changing Australian community. Those expectations include: the expectation that, in the context of our multicultural diversity, the Parliament will be truly representative of all the people; the expectation that the elected representatives of all Australians will work to heal any divisions in our society and, in particular, to achieve true and lasting Aboriginal reconciliation; the expectation that the voices of the disadvantaged will be heard; the expectation that our natural environment will be protected and preserved for future, as well as present, Australians.

All of us who are privileged to hold public office, be it elected or appointed, owe a duty of trust to the present and future generations of Australians to put the pursuit of the common good above personal gain or ambition. As we celebrate the Centenary of the first meeting of our national Parliament, let us be conscious of that duty and of the basic fact of our democracy, namely, that the ultimate source of all government power and authority in this land is the people – all the people – of our Commonwealth.

God bless Australia.

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