Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson
Shadow Minister for Communications
10 September 2022
Topics: Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen’s deep connection with Victoria
Kieran Gilbert: The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, led a group of politicians and dignitaries at a wreath laying ceremony here at Parliament House. Among those who attended and paid her respects is Liberal frontbencher Senator Sarah Henderson. Thanks so much for your time and as we saw in a couple of those reports, there, a very strong connection, and affection for our country from Her Majesty over many years. Wasn’t it?
Senator Henderson: Well, Kieran, good morning. Wonderful to join you. At a time of great mourning for our nation and for the Commonwealth, it was a great honour to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Victoria this morning at the wreath laying service. And like all of us, I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the feeling of loss. It is profound, and part of that loss is because the Queen had such an incredible connection with Australia.
Probably one of her biggest tours was in 1954 when 7 million Australians turned out – 70% of the population. But she had 12 visits to Victoria – many wonderful experiences – going to the footy, going to the races at Flemington, going to the cricket, and even when she visited Geelong where I have my office and where I’m from, a wonderful story where she met a bloke who had a dog, with a watch around the dog’s paw. And there’s a wonderful photograph captured of the Queen laughing by Darren Lyons, the former Mayor in fact, because the story goes that she asked, ‘well what is the dog wearing a watch for’? And the stockman said, ‘well, it’s to make sure the dog will go around the sheep in a clockwise direction’. The Mayor said, ‘but it’s digital’. And at that moment, the Queen just thought that was hilarious. So she was so humble, she had such incredible grace.
Kieran Gilbert: There’s the photograph there[referring to the iconic photograph of The Queen laughing when visiting Geelong in 1988]
Senator Henderson: Oh, wonderful. Oh, it’s an extraordinary photograph. And that’s Jim Finch, the former Mayor of Geelong.
Kieran Gilbert: Yes [laughing] but the watch was digital. She had a great sense of humour, according to most people that met her.
Senator Henderson: She had a great sense of humour, and when Dennis Lillee tried to ask for her autograph, and that was a very funny moment as well…
Kieran Gilbert: He said ‘G’day Queen’.
Senator Henderson: ‘G’day Queen’ [laughing]… And I think she probably looked up to the crowd at the MCG and thought, Well, if I do it for you, I’m going to have to do it for everyone so that probably wouldn’t be a good look.
Kieran Gilbert: And then subsequently, reading up on that encounter that you talk of, and I think it was 1970 with Dennis Lillee, she did get a picture of them meeting and sent it to him signed.
Senator Henderson: Oh, that is wonderful.
Kieran Gilbert: Well, I mean the sort of irreverent behaviour of Australian cricketers – she looked like she took it in her stride pretty easily.
Senator Henderson: I think she did. I think she loved that about Australia. I mean she had a great and very deep affection for Australia – we loved her, and the whole world loved her. And it is extraordinary, Kieran, to think that she ascended the throne at the age of 25. And one of the most amazing things I find about the Queen … and I’m feeling quite emotional after laying that wreath this morning, and I chose all white flowers because she chose those for her beloved husband when he died … but one of the most remarkable things is that through drought, through war, through the constitutional crisis, even when we had the referendum for the Republic, she maintained an incredible dignity, an incredible respect for every country in the Commonwealth. And she was a constant. And when you consider that she did that job for, I think it was 70 years and 214 days, it is extraordinary. There probably will never be another monarch like her.
Kieran Gilbert: No. And the fact is, while we talk about her as this incredible woman, monarch and Queen, which she was over seven decades, as you rightly say, it’s also a human story, isn’t it? Because 18 months ago she lost her beloved husband. There’s many occasions where you see someone in their nineties or an elderly person, they lose they lose their partner of life. And they do go to God, not long after. And this is another case where that’s happened. And I guess today we look at King Charles III, and he’s facing a challenge of grieving his mother while also taking on the enormity of his new role as king.
Senator Henderson: Look, I thought King Charles’ first speech was incredible and the way he reached out to Harry was very emotional, talking about his love. But most importantly, talking about his obligation of service, just like his mother did. I just love this quote – it was the evening before the coronation on the 2nd of June, 1953, she said, ‘throughout all my life and with all my heart, I shall strive to be worthy of your trust’. And she was worthy and she won hearts and minds and the admiration of so many millions and millions around the world.
Kieran Gilbert: You know, there’s a lot of discussion in the modern debate about and obviously you’ve been a big part of it in terms of the Liberal debate about empowering women and women leaders – this is probably the greatest, or one of the greatest of all time.
Senator Henderson: She’s the greatest of all leaders.
Kieran Gilbert: And in terms of that, being a female leader as well, of enormous strength , duty, dignity and grace, absolute .
Senator Henderson: Absolutely an incredible leader, an inspiration to us all. And of course, she lived to see through the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. Of course it’s wonderful to see another woman become Prime Minister in the UK and I’m sure it will happen one day in Australia again. But she is an inspiration to women around the world, to young and old. But more importantly, she’s an inspiration to us all, Kieran. It’s very, very sad – it is a loss that we all feel very, very deeply. And I feel very honoured to represent the people of Victoria at this time.
Kieran Gilbert: Well thank you for sharing your reflections, as you say, it is a sombre day but a day of thanks as well in the sense of having the 70 years of service of a great Queen. Thank you.
Senator Henderson: That’s right, and that’s why we say thank you, Your Majesty, for everything.