1 April 2022

Did the Queen reign over you in Canberra? It's time for show-and-tell

| Sally Hopman
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Robert Menzies, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh

A young Queen Elizabeth with the Duke of Edinburgh and Sir Robert Menzies on the new monarch’s first visit to Canberra in 1954. Photo: State Library of NSW collection.

Have you ever been up close and personal with the Queen in Canberra? Or perhaps just gazed at her from afar but have pictures to prove it?

If so, the National Capital Authority (NCA) wants you – or at least your photographs and your memories.

To mark the monarch’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, celebrating a remarkable 70 years on the throne, the NCA is calling for contributions for its upcoming exhibition, The Queen and Me, asking Canberrans for their souvenirs of her royal visits to the nation’s capital.

The Queen has visited Australia 16 times during her reign. From the first visit of a new queen in 1954 to her swan song in 2011, she has drawn hundreds of thousands of people wherever she has appeared – many of whom were snapping photographs. She is also the only reigning British monarch to visit Australian shores.

Queen and girl

National Capital Authority exhibition The Queen and Me opens in June. Photo: National Capital Authority.

Thirteen of those visits have included Canberra in the royal schedule:

  • 1954: First visit as the new Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh.
  • 1963: Canberra’s Jubilee.
  • 1970: Dedicated the Carillon and Captain Cook Memorial.
  • 1974: Opened the Australian Parliament – but had to return unexpectedly to the UK when a snap election was called there – the first time she had to cut short a tour.
  • 1977: Silver Jubilee visit.
  • 1980: Opened the High Court of Australia.
  • 1982: Opened the National Gallery of Australia.
  • 1986: Signed the 1986 Australia Act, making this country independent of British law.
  • 1988: Opened Parliament House during our Bicentenary year.
  • 1992: Opened Bonython Primary School and visited rural regions.
  • 2000: Visited United Churches Centre at Barton.
  • 2006: Planted a gum tree at Government House and met volunteers who fought the 2003 bushfires.
  • 2011: Went to Floriade and Duntroon as well as a trip on the official launch on Lake Burley Griffin.

NCA attractions manager Roslyn Hull said The Queen and Me was a people’s exhibition, designed to honour the monarch during her Platinum Jubilee year by celebrating the experiences of Australians who witnessed first-hand any of her trips to the national capital.

Newspaper clipping

A newspaper clipping from 1954, reporting the Queen’s arrival in Canberra. Photo: Trove.

“There are many official photographs of the Queen’s visit to Canberra, what we would love to see in this exhibition are photographs and memories of the reaction of people who saw her when she was in Canberra,” Roslyn said.

“We know lots of students were trooped out from their school to see her … maybe someone still has the blazer they wore back then?

“We’d love to see souvenirs of all types related to her visits to Canberra, programs, tickets to events even menus from official functions.

“If you were there, we’d love to hear from you, hear what you thought, what you saw.”

READ ALSO Forty years on, are we still telling almost-Princess Di tales?

Roslyn said the community had started to respond well to the NCA’s call for memorabilia, with a pop-up book of the Queen already submitted. She’d also received a souvenir map of the 1954 tour.

“It shows the different routes the Queen took while she was here. It notes where she was going and where she was going to stop,” she said.

She added the exhibition was a “call for memories” of all kinds.

“What was your experience of the day? What interesting anecdotes can you share? Did you have any close interactions with Queen Elizabeth II? Will you share recollections of what those visits meant to you and why?” she asked.

READ ALSO Queen steps into Aussie flies, Ikebana and a ‘city without a soul’

During the Queen’s visits to the country spanning from 1954 to 2011, many “firsts” were recorded – from the record number of air miles she travelled (10,000) to the 33 flights she took and the 130 hours she spent in cars for 207 trips.

People with memories of Canberra’s royal visits are invited to share their photographs, commemorative items and ephemera along with their stories captured in audio, video or written form with the NCA. From traditional to controversial, the best will be put on display at The Queen and Me exhibition, which is scheduled to open at the National Capital Exhibition in June.

For more information about submissions to the exhibition, check out the website.

The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2022.

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I’m looking forward to the cinematic recreation of the opening of Bonython primary school in the next series of ‘The Crown’.

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