The Queen held a virtual call with Australians of the Year and the country’s Governor-General to congratulate them on their “wonderful job” as she celebrates her platinum jubilee.
The Queen was in good spirits throughout the meeting, with the winners noting with some surprise her “cheeky” sense of humour.
On the Zoom call with the six Australians, including recently retired professional wheelchair tennis player Dylan Alcott, the 96-year-old monarch remarked on the “splendid” technology that enabled the virtual meeting to take place despite the fact that its participants were on opposite sides of the world.
The call, which took place on May 9 but was not made public until Saturday, began with Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley noting to the Queen that it had been 34 years to the day since she had opened Parliament in Canberra.
“Oh!” the 96-year-old remarked in surprise before recalling “that little water” which is the hall’s water feature.
“That little pond inside really intrigued me a lot. I was wondering how many people had fallen into it,” she joked, smiling broadly. It wasn’t clear if she knew that over the three decades since its inception, the feature – known as the Pool of Reflection – has become notorious in Canberra for causing such incidents.
Mr Alcott – a four-time Paralympic gold medalist – was the first to introduce himself to the Queen, telling her that when he informed his mother he would be meeting the monarch, she burst into tears.
“It’s brilliant,” said the 31-year-old, before joking that he had “unfortunately won a few titles at Wimbledon”, beating the British players she might not have been “so happy about” , causing the audience to laugh. Queen.
“The reason I get up every day is to change perceptions, so people with disabilities, people like me, can get out there and live the life they deserve,” Mr Alcott added.
The tennis star got slightly emotional as she spoke to the Queen about the “honor” of being a disability advocate as Australian of the Year.
“When I was young I hated myself, Your Majesty, and…if I thought anyone in a wheelchair, let alone me, could be Australian of the Year, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Mr. Alcott said. “When I told my mom last night that I was going to meet you, she cried…So I think I made her very proud too.”
The Queen also met Australian youngster of the year, Dr Daniel Nour, 25, who founded a mobile medical service that provides GP-led medical access to those who are homeless and vulnerable.
Dr Nour told the Queen he came up with the idea for the service while studying at Imperial College London.
“I met a man having a fit in Waterloo, just outside the station,” he explained.
After the call, the 2022 Australians of the Year raved about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which aired parts of the video call on Saturday, about the Queen’s ‘cheeky’ sense of humor and how they found her “down to earth”.
“She’s pretty cool. I’m not going to lie,” Mr. Alcott said. “She was lovely. She was so lovely and what a huge honor to be able to represent all of Australia. The six of us are pretty lucky and it’s something I will remember forever.
“She is cheeky. I like that she is cheeky,” added Dr. Nour. “She had a cheeky smile…and was so down to earth and adorable.”
ABC’s broadcast of the appeal to mark the Queen’s Jubilee came on the same day newly elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese renamed Aspen Island on Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin to Queen Elizabeth Island. II.
At a ceremony on Saturday that included the opening of Queen Elizabeth’s new water gardens, Mr Albanese said the monarch had made 14 trips to the nation’s capital during her reign – more than others members of the royal family.
He added that when the Queen visited in 1963 for Canberra’s 50th anniversary, the lake was empty due to drought. Seven years later, on a cold April day, she returned to open the National Carillon, which was a gift from the British government to the Australian people.
“Her Majesty said at the time that the ‘Harmony of the Bells’ will be a reminder of the enduring family ties between Britain and Australia,” Mr Albanese said.
Earlier this week, Sydney Harbor Bridge was lit up purple to mark the Platinum Jubilee, just days after the country’s prime minister was appointed to oversee the transition to a republic.
Matt Thistlethwaite was sworn in by the newly elected Labor government as deputy minister of the republic on the eve of the Jubilee and said the occasion had given Australians food for thought about the country’s future.
“As the Queen arrives at the twilight of her reign, we can rightly – and should – pay tribute to her for the tremendous job she has done,” Mr Thistlethwaite told the PA news agency.
“But Australians are now starting to think about what comes next for our country. And I think it’s time we resumed a serious conversation about what’s next for Australia after the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
“Australia is an independent nation. We have our own identity and our own culture. Every Australian, regardless of background, place of birth, gender or religion, should be able to aspire to be the head of state of our nation.
“My role is basically an education role in the early stages: explaining to people that we have a foreign monarch as head of state, we have a proxy in the Governor General, but we can have an Australian as our head of state.”
The new government has informally pledged to hold a republican referendum in its next term if it wins a second election, with Mr Albanese prioritizing a referendum for constitutional recognition of the country’s indigenous peoples.