Feature Image
Date
Published
Introduction

The Governor and Mr Howard’s official program has taken on many different forms throughout the last year as Victoria and the globe respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program took a hybrid approach – mixing in-person and virtual engagements – as well as in-person engagements adapted as necessary to meet the public health requirements of the time.

Body

In 2021 the official program of the Governor and Mr Howard focused, as always, on the constitutional, ceremonial, community and international aspects of the Governor’s role.

The Governor’s constitutional role continued to be at the core of her work. Throughout the year the Governor presided over meetings of the Victorian Executive Council, swore in Ministers, gave Royal Assent to bills debated and passed by the Parliament of Victoria and undertook all the other constitutional functions of the Governor in Victoria’s system of parliamentary democracy.

The ceremonial role of the Governor also continued to be a central part of the Governor’s work. In 2021 this included traditional observances such as speaking at the Australia Day flag raising ceremony and the ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day commemorations, swearing in a new Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria and Supreme Court judges, and presiding at an Australian Citizenship ceremony.

Investing Victorians with honours and awards in the Order of Australia was a highlight of the Governor’s ceremonial role in 2021. With ceremonies adjusted over time to accommodate either the limits or the opportunities arising from changing public health requirements, the Governor invested Victorians from all over the State with their awards for distinguished service and achievement. Many more ceremonies were held in 2021 so as to be able to comply with density limits without reducing the number of guests recipients could bring to share in their special day. To find out more about how to nominate someone for the Order of Australia, visit this page.

The Governor’s community role, one shared closely with Mr Howard, continued to see them connecting with people across the State. Although very diverse, once again 2021 saw a particular focus on those affected by, or responding to, the COVID-19 pandemic. They hosted a range of functions at Government House and attended a wide range of events across the community, touching almost every part of Victorian life and, in different ways, every corner of the State.

A highlight of 2021 was an active in person and virtual visit program in regional Victoria. This enabled the Governor and Mr Howard to meet with council representatives, community members, volunteers and the owners of small regional businesses. The regional program enabled engagement across a broad span of Victoria. Wellington Shire in the east of the State, Bass Coast Shire in South Gippsland,  the Shire of Buloke in western Victoria, and Macedon Ranges Shire in central Victoria were just some of the areas to receive an in-person or virtual visit.

The Peace & Prosperity Kitchen Garden program is an important part of the ongoing community engagement of the Governor and Mr Howard. The programs aims to provide participants with a place of welcome and a sense of belonging, assisting participants in building connections within their local communities. Run in conjunction with Community Hubs Australia, women from migrant and refugee backgrounds participate in the program at Government House Victoria. 2021 participants included women from Bell Park North Community Hub and Northern Bay College Community Hub, both based in Geelong, as well as three groups from the Wyndham area in Melbourne’s west. These women came to Victoria from all over the world, including from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Myanmar, and the program provides an opportunity to share their experiences with each other and to build strong friendships in their new country.

Tours of the State Apartments and the Government House Gardens are an ever-popular feature of the Government House Victoria calendar. Free and open to the public, these tours, which are frequently led personally by Mr Howard, are run regularly and can also be arranged for community groups and organisations. Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, tours undertaken in 2021 included volunteers from the Motor Neurone Disease Association who were marking National Volunteer Week; young graduates from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning; refugee students from the River Nile School; and a group of  English as an Additional Language students from the Footscray campus of Victoria University Polytechnic. 

The Governor in Schools program is a virtual educational initiative which provides a unique opportunity for senior students to meet virtually with the Governor and Mr Howard, and to learn about the role the Governor plays in our democracy and system of Government.  Aimed at senior students studying Australian and Global Politics and Legal Studies, during 2021 the program also included younger students learning about Civics and Citizenship. Student cohorts came from across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, including Grade 6 students from Melton and Mitcham Primary Schools and  senior students from Mill Park Secondary College, Beechworth Secondary College, and Maffra Secondary College.

The Government House Victoria Tennis Program continued during 2021. Run in partnership with Tennis Victoria, participants are mostly from multicultural groups or organisations working with people with disability, who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn and play tennis. Participants play on the tennis court at Government House, working with coaches from Tennis Victoria. Participants this year  included the St Albans East Tennis Club, the South Gisborne Tennis Club, and Topseed Tennis, based in Broadmeadows.

While impacted by COVID for the second year in a row, the Governor’s Performance Series nevertheless was able to continue in 2021. In February, an outdoor cinema event was held in the Government House garden, with a screening of the Australian Film Paper Planes. Later in the year, many Victorians visited the grounds of Government House for a memorable performance of a number of Victorian Pipe Bands.  Visit this page to read more about the performance.

Despite the inability to travel overseas on behalf of the State, and the shortage of international visitors coming to Victoria, the Governor was still able to continue her important role in Victoria’s international engagement. This included receiving visiting Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consuls-General, conducting video meetings with international partners, and continuing to support the work of Victoria’s Trade and Investment Commissioners across the world.

As 2021 draws to a close, the Governor and Mr Howard have had the opportunity to reflect on a year which bought with it many challenges as Victoria and Australia continued to navigate the reality of living with COVID-19. Throughout the year, hybrid Vice-Regal program, incorporating a mix of in-person, virtual and adapted in-person engagement informed by public health advice, enabled the Governor and Mr Howard to continue to meet, speak with, and hear from  Victorians throughout the State.