Tuesday, 11 October 2022

Welcome everyone to Government House, particularly those who have travelled from regional areas. Rod and I are delighted you could be with us for this special occasion.

Congratulations to you all on being chosen to attend this Reception and being leaders in your school communities.

We know the final years of High School are challenging times in themselves. Coupled with that, society is changing around you – rapidly so.

We know, though, that, as a result, you have become resilient, agile and embraced change.

We hope you will continue to grow and develop your already identified leadership capabilities. Youth voices are important voices which can contribute to how we develop and thrive as a community.

Leadership isn’t the sole province of our more obvious leaders: our school principals, our government ministers, our world leaders.

It is potentially within us all.

As Rod and I have travelled the State, we have met and spoken with many young people who are giving back to their communities.

We are heartened to see how many of them value where they live in regional Australia.

Alongside that, we have seen how appreciative communities are of the contributions of their young leaders.

Among these interactions, I was deeply touched when one young woman told me that a speech I had made at this Student Leaders Reception last year had influenced her to make decisions on the leadership direction she wanted to pursue.

I was delighted that she had recognised her own potential.

For you all, I know it can be challenging to decide whether to stay in your communities, or to leave to pursue goals elsewhere and when it might be the right time to return home.

I grappled with the same dilemmas when I was your age.

Then, I didn’t have a firm idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go to University.

I thought Economics sounded interesting and that Law would give me a good all-round education, so I started with both.

A year overseas honed my thinking and I decided that law really wasn’t for me.

So, I graduated with an Economics Degree from the University of Adelaide, and loved my time there.

That economics degree enabled me to join the Department of Foreign Affairs in a graduate position.

That led to a first overseas posting in Hong Kong and 20 years after that - and many jobs in between - appointment as Australia’s First female Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, and subsequently, as first female head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, Australia’s chief diplomat.

Back in High School I never dreamed that any of this could happen.

For his part, my husband, Rod has been, successively, - and successfully - a physicist, a diplomat, and a high school teacher.

I share our stories so you can see that ambitions and choices change, career paths can take a turn that is often unexpected, and opportunities arise that can be grasped.

Where-ever life leads you, I encourage you to do what you love, do it to the best of your ability, always put your heart and soul into it, and look for ways to assist others.

We need look no further for an example of this than that set by our late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

As a young princess aged 21, she declared and I quote in part: … that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service ….

We are grateful that her life was indeed long, and she fulfilled her promise unwaveringly even in the hours up to her passing.

I am sure you will join with me in recognising that one way we can honour her legacy is to serve our communities in any way we can.

Today, I thank your teachers, parents, family and friends for supporting you though your school years, and I know they will be there for the next stages of your lives.

Rod and I wish you all the best for the upcoming exams and we wish you all the best for the future.