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The Oath Book

Ahead of the inauguration of the 30th Governor of Victoria, explore the history of the ceremony with previous Governors.


On Wednesday 9 August 2023, Professor Margaret Gardner AC will be inaugurated as the 30th Governor of Victoria. The inauguration ceremony will see Professor Gardner formally sworn in to exercise the constitutional power of Head of State in Victoria.

Maintaining the traditions associated with the inauguration of the Governor is a point of continuity for the Office of the Governor and reinforces the Governor’s role in upholding the democratic framework of Victoria.

Although the role of the Governor and how it is understood has evolved over time, the customs involved in inauguration date back to when Charles La Trobe was sworn in as the first Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria on 15 July 1851, following Victoria’s formal separation from New South Wales.

Upon his swearing in, La Trobe signed an Oath Book – the very same one is still used to this day, containing the signatures of every Governor of Victoria.

The Oath Book
The Oath Book first signed by Charles La Trobe as Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria in 1851.

La Trobe resigned from the lieutenant-governorship in 1853 and was subsequently replaced by Sir Charles Hotham. Arriving in Melbourne on 22 June 1854, Sir Charles was greeted with jubilant scenes for his inauguration.

For many of the early Governors, inauguration ceremonies took place on the same day that they arrived in Victoria. In a letter home, Sir Charles wrote of his arrival:

'It is impossible for me to depict the enthusiasm which prevailed on all parts.'

On 26 December 1856, Sir Henry Barkly became the first to be sworn in under the new Victorian Constitution, which had been given Royal Assent the previous year. Thousands of spectators lined the streets to get a view of the official procession, which included mounted police and approximately two hundred members of the military, as well as Ministers of various religious denominations.

The Argus reported that the procession was also briefly joined by an intruder ‘bedaubed with paint and bedecked with ribbons and a false beard’, who mounted a bull and waved a wooden sword to the laughter of the crowd before being removed by police.

Prior to 1858, the inauguration ceremony required the Governor-Designate to take three separate oaths.  This included the Oath of Allegiance (to Queen Victoria), the Oath of Supremacy (forswearing any allegiance to a foreign power) and the Oath of Abjuration (swearing to uphold the Protestant religion and deny the Stuart claim to the British throne). The Governor-Designate also undertook a Declaration to protect and defend the established Church of England. A special oath was to be taken for those of Roman Catholic religion.

In 1858, a simplified Oath of Allegiance was introduced by Act of Parliament. Today, the Governor-Designate is now only required to swear the oaths of allegiance and of office.

Although the structure and proceedings of these ceremonies has remained consistent, the location at which they are held has been more fluid. The Treasury Buildings and the Exhibition Buildings were both used to hold inauguration ceremonies for multiple Governors prior to Federation.

Newspaper print of the Inauguration of Sir Charles Darling as Governor of Victoria at the Treasury Buildings.
The Inauguration of Governor Sir Charles Darling at the Treasury Buildings in 1863. Sourced from the State Library Victoria.

Governor George Phipps, Marquess of Normanby, was sworn in at Government House in February 1879 as Administrator of the Government, but had to wait until April when the relevant commissions arrived to swear in as Governor at a meeting of the Executive Council.

From the inauguration of Sir Reginald Talbot in 1904 onwards, ceremonies were held at Parliament House. They continued to attract large crowds of spectators, with The Argus reporting in 1914 that the new Governor Sir Arthur Stanley ‘must have shaken hands over a thousand times’ from his arrival until he drove through the gates of Government House that afternoon.

Footage of Governor-Designate Lord Huntingfield arriving in Victoria in 1934 shows similar scenes of excitement amongst the crowd.

Footage of Lord Huntingfield arriving in Victoria.

In 1974, Sir Henry Winneke became the first non-British Governor of Victoria. A former Air Force captain, Governor Winneke was provided with a 100-man guard of honour by RAAF Point Cook following his inauguration.

Sir Henry Winneke on the steps of Parliament House at his inauguration ceremony.
Sir Henry Winneke was inaugurated as Governor of Victoria on 3 June 1974. Sourced from Parliament of Victoria.

For almost 100 years, ceremonies were held exclusively at Parliament House. This tradition changed on 1 January 2001, when John Landy was inaugurated at Government House on the 100th anniversary of Australia’s Federation. Government House hosted the inauguration ceremonies of successive Governors, Governor David de Kretser, Governor Alex Chernov and Governor Linda Dessau.

Professor Margaret Gardner’s inauguration returns the ceremony to the Legislative Council at Parliament House for the first time since the inauguration of Sir James Gobbo in 1997.

The ceremony will incorporate several elements from inauguration ceremonies past. The Governor-Designate will receive a ceremonial arrival, met by the Premier of Victoria, the Honourable Daniel Andrews MP and the Senior Victorian Officers of the Australian Defence Force, representing the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force.

Prior to the ceremony the Governor-Designate will be welcomed to Parliament House by the President of the Legislative Council and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and will be formally introduced to the Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, Professor James Angus AO, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Honourable Anne Ferguson, and senior members of the Victorian Cabinet.

Following the ceremony at Parliament House, Professor Gardner will return to Government House, where she will receive the Royal Salute from a 100-person Australian Defence Force Tri-Service Guard of Honour, before inspecting the Guard.

The ceremony at Parliament House will also include a Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country by a Wurundjeri Elder. Professor Gardner will also be welcomed to Country upon her arrival at Government House by Wurundjeri and Bunurong Traditional Owners.

You can watch the livestream Professor Gardner’s inauguration as the 30th Governor of Victoria via the Governor of Victoria website. Official proceedings commence from 11:00am on Wednesday 9 August.