Thursday, 11 May 2023

Royal Geographical Society of South Australia 2023 Awards

Rod and I, as joint patrons, are delighted to be with you in the beautiful Mortlock Library to present the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia awards for 2023.

Congratulations to all the award winners for your keen interest, and undoubted skills, in geography studies.

I might begin by thanking the Society for being an important part of my early professional experience of the world.

As a newly appointed diplomat on my first overseas posting in Hong Kong I was an enthusiastic member of the Royal Geographical Society.

I wanted to gain a broader view of where I was then living, to meet the wide range of stimulating new people who formed its membership, some of whom became valued contacts.

I also later attended occasional events in London while I was posted there.

As Governor I now play a different role. I am always keen to encourage young people to pursue their passions, and in doing so also to become active committed citizens.

The study of places and the relationships between people and their environments - of geography – can bring these two things together for so many young people, as we all grapple with some of the great challenges of our time such as climate change.

I think the field work undertaken by the secondary students and the doctoral research topics examining our coast, our water systems, examining liveability, and climate change, shows that these possibilities resonate with the young people receiving awards today.

Geographers, since ancient Greece, have historically been at the forefront of expanding the sum of knowledge of the world around us.

I am pleased that tonight’s awards recognise and encourage that curiosity amongst our bright and talented young people.

In your own quest for discovery, I encourage you to be aware of and draw on the perspectives of others.

The first Australians have had a close relationship with the land for more than 60,000 years and have a system of respect and care from which we can learn much.

Indeed, the pioneering Overland Telegraph, which opened up Australia to the world, followed the traditional trade routes used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years.

Across the road, at Government House we are undertaking a cultural mapping process to better understand the Kaurna history of Lot 1 North Terrace and to present a fuller and more complete history of the land than we currently have.


The Royal Geographical Society of South Australia has had an important role in the development of our State, dating back to 1885.

Its founders set ambitious goals for the Society, sponsoring Outback expeditions and purchasing literary treasures to set in place the foundation of a great library collection.

There was a focus on capturing Indigenous culture in the Society’s early publications.

Over its history, the Society either actively sponsored, or organised, exploration of the Great Victoria and Simpson Deserts, the Northwest of Western Australia, the Polar Regions, and Lake Eyre.

I am sure it would be surprising to many that the Australian Continent was not fully mapped until World War II.

In closing, I want to acknowledge the volunteers who are at the heart of the Royal Geographical Society.

Thank you for being the custodians of such rich and precious resources, including the largest geographical library in Australia, a collection of international significance.

Thank you too for looking to the future, including in curating an on-line resource to enable more people to see the Society’s most precious and rare artefacts.

But perhaps most of all, thank you for investing in our youth and encouraging excellence in the pursuit of knowledge.

Coming events