Outgoing Governor-General Quentin Bryce has been hailed for her dignity, grace and authentic warmth.
Australia’s first female Governor-General Quentin Bryce has been honoured for adding mightily to the lustre of the office.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten hailed the dignity, grace and warmth she brought to the role over the past five-and-a-half years, at a farewell parliamentary reception.
“Australia’s first female governor-general has added mightily to the lustre of this great office,” Mr Abbott said on Tuesday.
The outgoing governor-general is now Dame Quentin after Mr Abbott asked the Queen to restore the system of pre-eminent honours.
She finishes an extended term as the Queen’s representative this week, making way for General Peter Cosgrove who replaces her on Friday.
Her son-in-law, Mr Shorten, said she had always been a trailblazer and thanked her on behalf of a grateful nation.
“On a personal note there are 10 grandchildren who have loaned you to the nation,” Mr Shorten said.
“Seven in Brisbane and three in Melbourne who will be thrilled to get you back.”
Dame Quentin said she had set out to break new ground by balancing tradition with renewal.
“I wanted to be a modern governor-general,” she said.
She fondly recalled school children’s visits to her official residences, reminding her not to take herself too seriously.
“One little boy, in a forceful manner, asked `How would you rate your job, Miss, on a scale of nought, really terrible, to 10, absolutely awesome?'”
Another little boy, Shaun, living on a remote Northern Territory cattle station and attending School of the Air, is one of her favourite letter correspondents.
“He likes to let me know about his pet calves, especially the one named after me,” Dame Quentin said.
Mr Abbott told assembled MPs, ambassadors and guests that Dame Quentin was no “stuffy or aloof” viceroy.
He recalled one of her visits to Australian troops serving in Afghanistan where she met a young soldier celebrating his 21st birthday.
“You lent over kissed him on the cheek and said `Happy Birthday, that’s on behalf of your mother’,” Mr Abbott said.
“In a way only a military man could, he smiled and replied `but Ma’m I miss my grandmother too! The two kisses he received made this young soldier’s day.”
Mr Abbott made a dig at the Labor Party’s prime ministerial musical chairs last year.
“I suspect there were Australians who fixed their gaze on Yarralumla and thought `thank God there is at least one adult left,” Mr Abbott said.
A new official portrait of Dame Quentin, by internationally acclaimed Australian artist Ralph Heimans, was unveiled at the ceremony.
The painting depicts Dame Quentin walking through the French doors of her office at Yarralumla onto a balcony with gum trees reflecting in the windows.