Thursday, December 10, 2009

Proclamation Day

It is a special day today, 10th December, because 150 years ago on this date Queensland's first governor arrived in Brisbane to proclaim the Colony of Queensland, separated from New South Wales by the Letters Patent signed in London on 6th June 1859 by Queen Victoria. The new governor was Sir George Ferguson Bowen, and his wife, Lady Diamantina Roma Bowen, accompanied him on the journey to Queensland. Portraits of the two of them can be seen below. Below those images is the first page of the Government Gazette containing the proclamation.

(Photos: Left, State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; Image No 4593-1v000r001. Right, Courtesy Lady Bowen Trust -

(Photo: Queensland State Archives, Courtesy

There is little doubt that the Bowens left their mark on Queensland and Queenslanders. Seemingly steeped in the democracy of parliament, the new governor established an Executive Council immediately on his arrival, and also sought to have elections called for a Legislative Assembly, Queensland's first. At the time, the State's upper house had members appointed rather than elected, and Governor Bowen was an advocate of changing that system to an electoral one. In many ways he seemed to favour the current one-house parliament, for he said "no man of ability, character and self-respect could be found to undertake the duties of Responsible Ministers, if they were liable to see their measures defeated or thwarted by a hostile majority in the Legislative Council created without their advice or consent."

Lady Bowen also sought to improve the lot of Queenslanders, in particular those who were less fortunate than others. A list of hospitals, orphanages and hospices that she championed can be seen here.

Such was the affection generated by Lady Bowen that, on the day in 1868 that the Bowens left Brisbane for Sir George's new post as governor of New Zealand, the Brisbane Courier reported: "Ever since she has been in the Colony, she has identified herself in the most hearty and zealous manner with every good and charitable work which has been set on foot and not a few have been originated and warmly promoted by her efforts." On her part, it was reported that she was prostrate with grief at the thought of leaving Queensland, and had to be carried onto the ship that was to transport them to New Zealand.

There is a re-enactment today of Governor and Lady Bowen sailing up the river to a welcome (including an artillery salute) at the Botanical Gardens, and then a procession to The Deanery at St John's Cathedral for the Proclamation to be read. I just happened to be able to catch sight of the vice-regal party on their way up the river. These photos are hot off the press.

(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Normal transmission resumes tomorrow.


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