The Australian Governor-General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, has today opened the doors of Government House to the public.
The Governor-General’s Centenary family picnic day was hosted by Her Excellency in Celebration of Australia’s Capital City Canberra, where the house is located, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. The grounds were opened to a host of activities including a barnyard petting zoo, soccer games, cricket, singing and included displays from the Australian Federal Police, ACT State Emergency Service and the ACT Fire brigade.
On centre stage were some of Canberra’s local choirs to open the day, followed by displays from the Royal Australian Air Force hot air balloon, defence bands and even Equestrian Games. Her Excellency made the effort to mingle with her guests as she performed the standard walkabout of the grounds with her husband. I had the chance to meet Ms Bryce and have a brief conversation in similar style to the Queen when she mingles.The day started with hundreds of people queuing at the gates to take up the rare opportunity to see the insides of the grounds and house, which coincidentally has been the official residence for 100 years although starting out as a grand farm residence which was purchased in 1913 by the Commonwealth Government as a temporary home for the Governor-General. The most popular attraction was the tour of the grand three-storey house with hundreds lining the driveway to have a peek inside.
I had the chance to get inside the house first and was greeted in the Governor-General’s office by her husband Mr Michael Bryce, who is extremely knowledgable about the house and the items within. He was showing volunteer guides great artifacts and gifts presented to her Excellency upon my arrival in the room, including a double edged dagger gifted to Her Excellency by the Queen of Jordan, Queen Rania.
The Governor-General’s residence has been home to all Governor Generals since 1913 but only permanently since 1927. Governor-General Lord Stonehaven was the first to live in the house permanently. The house underwent renovations in 1927 in preparation for the visit of HRH the Duke of York, later George VI, and his wife Elizabeth who officially opened Old Parliament House during their visit to the new capital. George VI’s brother HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Glousester has to this day been the only HRH to serve in the role as Governor-General of Australia serving his brother the king from 30 January 1945 – 11 March 1947. This posting was seen as good strategy by the then Prime Minister John Curtin to maintain Britain’s commitment to the defence of Australia.
Photo Credit – All photos by Brent Hunter, writer