It may surprise you to know that I have spoken to the Queen.
In 1970 I became a Queen’s Guide. I worked hard to get that badge, the pinnacle of Guiding. I had to pass tests to get various badges, including cooking a 3 course meal for a family other than my own and taking my patrol of 6 girls camping for a weekend with only minimal adult supervision. I was 17!
I was presented with the badge in front of my Guiding friends and family.
Then later went to Victorian Government House and was presented with a certificate by the Governor, Rohan Delacombe.
The Queen visited Melbourne in 1970, and, as a Queen’s Guide, I was selected to be an Official Door Opener.
From memory there were about half a dozen of us, both Queen’s Guides and Scouts. For a couple of weeks before the tour we were taken by taxi to the government car park in Dudley St to have training in “how to open a door for a Royal Person”. Step, step, open, salute, keep saluting, step, close.
We were taught about the protocols of interacting with the Queen. Only speak if spoken to, then using ‘Your Majesty’, then Ma’am if the conversation continues. Well, I think that’s what I was taught.
My big day came when the Queen and Prince Phillip went to the Albert Park Sports Centre.
I was doing my best door opening and saluting when the Queen stopped and spoke to me:
“Are you a Queen’s Guide?”
“Yes your Majesty.” (Well, I hope I said that correctly.)
Then off she went.
To be honest that’s all I remember about the day. I suppose I was nervous and excited. Looking back on it it seems rather surreal.
One strong emotion I do remember was at Monday morning assembly when the head mistress called me out in front of the whole school to recognise my achievement. I was mortified! Not only didn’t I want to face all those people, I was outed as a Guide. That was a very uncool thing to be, and I tended to keep quiet about it. Again, looking back, there were probably lots of girls (it was an all girls school) who thought it was a pretty good thing to have done.
Maybe my republican values began here. I know I was amazed at the expense and organisation that went into just my little part of the event. I was also developing a social justice and knew that the money could have been used in so many other ways. Now I have a much better understanding that having an English monarch as our head of state is quite ridiculous. And that our Parliament is shutting down for 10 days is even more ridiculous.
Queen Elizabeth’s death leaves very large shoes for Charles to fill, and our world will be very different.
I respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land on which I live – the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung People of the Kulin Nation, their spirits, ancestors, elders and community members past and present. The land always was, and always will be Aboriginal land.