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Speech given by the Governor at the UK/Australia Season in Victoria reception at the Melbourne Museum

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First, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are gathering, and I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and to Elders of other communities who may be with us today.

As I suspect you might be aware, across the last two years, the world has been grappling with a global pandemic. On a particularly micro level, a consequence has been that, for a much longer period than usual, the closest I have been to this building has been to be vaccinated across the way!

So, what a pleasure it is for us to be back in our wonderful Melbourne Museum, particularly with the backdrop of such a fantastic exhibition.

Thank you Lynley for enthusing us about it, and for introducing us to such a terrific collaboration between our much-loved museum and London’s famous Natural History Museum.

Well, now, at a time when we might (hopefully) consign words like pivot and unprecedented to the bin of history, we can reflect on what will strengthen us as we look forward.

I am certain that the answer lies in what has strengthened us in the course of these challenging times.

We have seen on a local, national and global scale that we are at our best when we work together. Those words are clichéd, but the thing about cliches is that they are often apt!

So, as we open to life after – or, more accurately, with – COVID, what better reset could Australia and Victoria share with the UK than through the arts and some of the broader disciplines and sectors that surround them?

I am of course a proud Australian, but you’ll forgive me if for just a few moments, as the Governor of Victoria, I speak a little more parochially.

We are proud in Victoria of the breadth and depth of our creative industries, and I am confident that our pride is not misplaced.

A Gold Rush in the 19th century, combined with leaders with a strong vision for a city of culture, set us up well.

Amongst the many legacies, we are home to magnificent theatres (that fortunately have been retained, attracting shows like Harry Potter straight from the West End), a Gallery that was the beneficiary of the transformative Felton Bequest: a gift that genuinely keeps on giving, Australia’s oldest professional orchestra in our Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and Australia’s oldest public library – in fact, one of the first free public libraries in the world.

And of course this museum that dates back to the 1850s.

But rather than resting in the 19th century, the emphasis on creative industries and complimentary disciplines still permeate our State.

Just before the pandemic struck, our National Gallery of Victoria was the 19th most visited in the world. Our State Library, a landmark in this UNESCO City of Literature, was the 4th, and our festivals are renowned – MIFF, one of the world’s oldest film festivals, and our Comedy Festival, ranked alongside Edinburgh and Montreal – are amongst them.

I congratulate everyone connected with the UK/Australia Season. It is a brilliant and timely cultural connector between us, particularly as it highlights the broader links across the arts, creative industries, research and higher education.

In reflecting on those links, the opening of the Science Gallery in Melbourne a week or so ago is front of mind for me.  

The Global Science Gallery Network, relevantly, brings together science, art, technology and design to educate and inspire young people.

It was founded in Trinity College Dublin. But the next two global sites chosen for it were at King’s College London and our University of Melbourne.

Our common interest in these innovative Galleries, embracing the creative collision between arts and science, is emblematic of what this Season program is about.

One final observation. Amongst the many other cultural intersections shared between the UK and Victoria, I know that the area of design – in its broadest sense – is one in which we can continue to proudly build our shared skills. 

In 2019, the United Kingdom followed Melbourne as the featured partner at the prestigious Business of Design Week in Hong Kong. It was a great honour for both Melbourne and the UK: another fine example of fertile ground for us to pursue.

Thank you Your Excellency for all that you do to facilitate that. Thank you too to our wonderful Museum and of course all the brilliant creative people and minds that will continue to forge the close relationship between Victoria and the United Kingdom.