Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Joint Community Services Meeting hosted by Rotary Club of Tea Tree Gully

This is my first visit to the Tea Tree Gully area as Governor, and I look forward to getting to know its people during my term.

Preparing for this event has made me aware of the large number of service clubs in the district, and the extensive work they do for the local community.

I applaud the many clubs represented tonight: Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, including Inner Wheel; Soroptimists, Zonta, Pathways Community, Tea Tree Gully View, Probus, RSL and the Country Women’s Association.

I am pleased to see that South Australia’s strong sense of community, and its deeply rooted culture of volunteering, is very strong in this district.

There are times when we all need someone to lean on, and Rod and I are looking forward to working as patrons with many South Australian organisations offering such support.

In addition to its rich community spirit, the Tea Tree Gully region has a rich history.

I note that the Kaurna people used to live by the Little Para, where Snake Gully Bridge is located, and around what is now One Tree Hill Road, where there were and still are permanent springs and waterholes.

The first permanent settlement of Europeans in the area was in 1839 – only three years after South Australia was proclaimed.

The area remains dotted with beautiful old stone buildings, reminders of the settlement’s beginnings.

Over the years, stockholders made way for market gardens – which then made way for housing.

The Tea Tree Gully district surpassed 100,000 residents in the early 21st century.

From my perspective the story of Tea Tree Gully, while unique, also mirrors the great change and evolution, over the years, of broader South Australian society.

This evening I have been asked to share some of my personal story with you.

I am a proud sixth-generation South Australian.

My mother, the Honourable Jennifer Cashmore AM, was a member of the Legislative Assembly of South Australia for 16 years, and served as Minister for Health and Minister for Tourism for 3 years.

As a child I had the valuable experience of watching her at close quarters as she campaigned in the electorate of Coles, known now as Morialta.

Votes in these parts mattered then as they do now: the MPs here tonight are evidence of that.

My sister and I sometimes used to do our homework in our mother’s office in Parliament House.

As I mentioned in my swearing-in speech, I have taken a long and rather circuitous route to cross to Government House on the other side of King William Road!

My late father, Ian, was a manager at Hills Industries. Our family was proud to be associated with this South Australian icon of innovation and manufacturing.

My late step father was Stewart Cockburn, a journalist for many years at The Advertiser. I’m sure there are some in this audience who remember his work!

I was very fortunate to grow up in a family environment which instilled a strong sense of public service.

As a young adult I chose to study economics at the University of Adelaide.

While there I joined the Adelaide Boat Club, and became an avid rower. I was also elected the first ever female captain of the club.

I credit this experience with many valuable life lessons: that you don’t have to be better than everyone else to lead; how to listen and seek advice, and much more.

I took these lessons with me to the Commonwealth Department of Foreign Affairs in 1985, where I started in its graduate program. It was the first year females outnumbered males.

My first posting was in Hong Kong in 1987, during the early years of China’s reform and opening.

Asia hadn’t been my first choice – I actually put in for Paris and missed out.

But I came to see quickly how exciting Asia was.

I recall stopping in Singapore on the way to Hong Kong, and just being amazed by this busting city, and trying mango for the first time.

They didn’t come down to South Australia from Queensland in those days!

In Hong Kong I met my husband, then a British diplomat, Rod Bunten.

Although our countries were historically close, and shared intelligence information, Rod had to get approval from the Governor of Hong Kong for us to marry, which we received the week before the wedding.

For many years we managed two diplomatic careers, while raising four children.

Our pre‑nuptial plan was that Rod would take leave and come with me to Australia for a year; I’d then try to get a posting in the UK and he’d try to get a posting in Australia; we’d then both try to get a posting in a third country.

It was challenging but we made it work.

After a posting in Taiwan, a stint as Deputy High Commissioner in London and Chief of Staff to the Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, I was appointed the Australian Ambassador to China from 2011-2015.

It was a great privilege to spend this time in Asia – in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and then China – and see the region transform before my eyes.

My memories of China in the 80s were of vast numbers of people on bicycles, very few cars, and people wearing dark colours.

There were piles of cabbages on street corners, coal-burning stoves, and a lot of dust.

By the time I was Ambassador, hundreds of millions of Chinese had had been lifted out of poverty, the Shanghai skyline had been completely transformed, and high-speed trains ran across the country.

In 2015 I returned to Australia to become Prime Minister Turnbull’s International adviser, and then Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the first woman to hold this role.

For the next five years, the department pursued Australia’s interests as world powers shifted and the pandemic took hold.

In response to COVID, we undertook the largest consular operation in DFAT’s history, working with our staff abroad to provide assistance to Australians seeking to return from overseas.

We stepped up our activity in the Pacific, enhanced engagement in Southeast Asia, and reoriented the aid program towards regional recovery from COVID-19.

I was also proud to lead the department through a period of cultural change, encouraging more women into senior ranks, as well as promoting diversity and inclusion through a range of initiatives.

As Secretary I saw the many practical benefits to Australia as the Department became more and more representative of our nation’s diversity, and as Governor I shall continue to promote the many benefits of diversity and inclusion in our society.

This includes lending my voice and office to advancing reconciliation and the wellbeing of Aboriginal people.

As a former diplomat, I am aware of the drivers of strategic, political and economic change globally and in our own Indo-Pacific region, and the challenges and opportunities these create.

I will do my best to support the promotion of the State nationally and internationally, having seen first-hand the high regard in which its people and products are held.

I have also seen many different examples of social and political organisation during my career, and I therefore attach deep importance to the institutional stability and values that are embodied in the role of Governor.

Since my swearing-in ceremony on 7 October, recent weeks have marked a busy period of settling in to Government House for me and my family, including Rod, our cavoodle Alfie and one of my four adult children.

We are very grateful for the warm – almost overwhelming - welcome and interest we have received from the South Australian community, including yourselves.

Therefore I thank you again for the kind invitation to address you this evening.

I wish all the service clubs present this evening all the very best for the future.

Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC


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