Unveiling Of Portrait Of Governer-General

Prime Minister

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

It is such a pleasure and an honour to join with you all here today.

I particularly want to acknowledge the reason we are all here: His Excellency, the Governor-General, and Her Excellency, Mrs Linda Hurley.

Just as it belongs to an important tradition, the unveiling of this official portrait is also an expression of our respect and gratitude. Something that travels beyond your office or title and goes to your character.

It is also, in its way, an expression of gratitude to your children. Caitlin, Marcus and Amelia – thank you for so generously sharing your father with the nation.

The unveiling of an official portrait for the Historic Memorials Collection is a special occasion that recognises the service of Australia’s highest officeholders.

In my role as Chair of the Historic Memorials Committee, I was delighted to see the portrait some weeks ago.

I want to congratulate the artist, Jude Rae, on her remarkable eye, and the brilliance of her hand as it painted this wonderful work into being.

I also wanted to acknowledge the Governor-General’s own commitment to the collaboration with this fine artist. This is the second time she has painted your portrait, and what shines through in the work is a shared understanding.

It is a portrait that captures not just a moment, but holds before us the essence of a life.

It’s a life that began in Wollongong in 1953, when David Hurley was born to Norma – a grocery store worker – and James, an Illawarra steelworker.

After an education that encompassed Port Kembla High and Royal Military College Duntroon, he joined the Australian Army in 1972.

It was the beginning of a distinguished, 42-year career in the Australian Defence Force, which culminated in his appointment as Chief of the Defence Force.

As I said at the announcement of his appointment as Governor-General, his leadership as Chief of the Australian Defence Force was authentic and ethical.

And that was in a period with as complex a cultural challenge and as intense an operational environment as any since Vietnam.

David Hurley then served as the 38th Governor of NSW, before being appointed Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia in 2019.

It seems fitting that someone who grew up in Port Kembla, which has played such a central part in the life of our nation, would himself go to do just that in multiple roles.

And in all these offices, he has served Australia with distinction.

Across the water from here, in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, there is a very different sort of portrait of the man we honour today.

Taken just over 31 years ago by George Gittoes, it is a photograph of then Lieutenant Colonel Hurley in Somalia, where he was leading the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment during Operation SOLACE.

His khaki is bathed in sunshine, but what is most striking is his smile.

Even in the shade cast by the brim of his hat, it is the brightest feature of that informal portrait.

What it conveys is both strength and gentleness – surely one of the most powerful of combinations a person can contain within their being.

And with that combination, a sense of quiet dignity and unbending duty.

So much can change in three decades, but that never did.

Through the great breadth of his roles in his long career, that is precisely how David Hurley has served his country.

Your Excellency, as you approach the end of your term as Australia’s 27th Governor-General, this new portrait represents the culmination of a remarkable life of public service.

As it hangs in place here in the heart of our nation’s democracy, this portrait will be another very welcome facet of your legacy, and an enduring reminder of your example.

Yours has been a life of compassion.

A life of devotion.

A life of quiet strength, and a sense of courage that has always been as understated as it has been undeniable.

Your nation thanks you.

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