Quentin Bryce: We Australians intuitively know what serves us well

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I acknowledge the traditional keepers of this land on which we gather in our nation's capital; their successors, and those who have come before me: their dignified service; their diligence and pledge; their important efforts in recognising, encouraging, and unifying Australians. I feel deeply the gravity of the role bestowed on me today as I stand before you in this Senate Chamber.

This chamber is a place of representative assembly, of rigorous review and debate, an institution enshrined in our Constitution and central to our country's parliamentary democracy. It is my greatest pleasure now to be part of that institution, to serve as Australia's 25th Governor-General; to perform my responsibilities according to law and convention; and to reflect the ideals, values, expectations, and achievements of the Australian people.

We are an evolving and maturing society, our collective expression drawn from our passage, and our hopes for the future. Since Australian colonies first federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia over a century ago, every dimension of us has been touched: our social, cultural, intellectual, economic and political environments; our independence as a self-governing nation; our special sense of what it is to be Australian. Our experience of the privilege and duty of suffrage over many years – belatedly for our indigenous people – has made Australians savvy participants in our democratic system, and careful scrutineers of its performance and value.

We are informed and not afraid to question. We intuitively know what serves us well, and what therefore deserves our protection. Equally, we embrace change as a natural and necessary consequence of our evolution. Our growing capacity to balance tradition with renewal is a sure and uplifting sign of our standing as a sophisticated and highly functional civilised society, and member of the global community.

Underpinning that capacity are our respect for the dignity, worth, and human rights of every individual; our insistence on equality of access to justice and opportunity; our belief in each other's ability to contribute to our enrichment and endurance; and our abiding commitment to a fair and inclusive society.

These are exciting times for Australia. I want you to know that I take on this role with solemnity, impartiality, energy, and a profound love for the country we share. And, as I travel – over our rich and testing country, into the vibrant and struggling sectors of our community, to our rural and remote places, forever deep in my heart – I promise to be alive, open, responsive, and faithful to the contemporary thinking and working of Australian society.

Taken from a speech given last week by Australia's newly appointed – and first female – governor-general

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