Australia remembers tireless servant Queen

·3-min read

Queen Elizabeth II has been remembered across Australia as a woman of duty, selflessness and compassion.

Almost 700 dignitaries including former prime ministers, judges and military chiefs gathered at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday for a national memorial service.

Past prime ministers Paul Keating, John Howard and Scott Morrison attended the service, which also featured a Bible reading, prayers, a floral tribute and the national anthem sung by Anthony Callea.

Australians were given a one-off public holiday to mark the memorial.

Governor-General David Hurley told the service he was overcome with emotion while attending the Queen's funeral in London as he witnessed the end of a "remarkable chapter".

"Throughout her reign she constantly demonstrated tireless and selfless service, devotion to duty and a compassion for others," he said.

Mr Hurley spoke of recently presenting to the Queen, via the now-King Charles III, a specially commissioned work of art combining the Queen Elizabeth II rose and the Australian wattle, in celebration of her platinum jubilee.

"It was incredibly moving to learn she retained it in her private study in Balmoral during her final weeks," he said.

"I like to think in those final days she may have looked on that painting and reflected on her many visits to Australia and her love of the Australian people.

"It was a love that was reciprocated by many of us."

Mr Hurley acknowledged the Queen's death had "prompted different reactions for some in our community".

He noted the journey to reconciliation with First Nations people was one Australia still needed to complete.

The procession of key dignitaries into the Great Hall was led by Indigenous performers Wiradjuri Echoes.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Queen did not seek to chase the times but rather "held to qualities and virtues that are timeless".

"Love of family, loyalty to country, service to community, kindness to those in need, respect for everyone she met," Mr Albanese said.

"Perhaps the greatest tribute we can offer her family and her memory is not a marble statue or a metal plaque.

"It's a renewed embrace of service to community, a truer understanding of our duty to others, a stronger commitment to respect for all."

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said there had never been a more "dignified monarch, dutiful leader or decent human" than the Queen.

Inside the Great Hall, among the sea of black suits, dresses, hats and veils could be seen the bright orange of SES volunteers, the red of Scout uniforms and blues and greens of school uniforms.

Outside on the parliament lawns, hundreds gathered to mark the occasion in front of two large screens streaming the procession.

In 1954, Michael Lucas was in Brisbane waving his flag celebrating the Queen's first official visit to Australia.

Almost seven decades later, celebration turned to commemoration.

"She's just done a wonderful job. She's been a mother figure to us all," he told AAP.

Despite being some decades his junior, the same sentiment was expressed by Sarah Wood, who travelled from Newcastle to witness the memorial service.

"She always prioritised what her duty was and there's not a lot of people out there that really do that anymore," she said, draped in a monochrome black British flag.

"A lot of world leaders could learn a thing or two from her."

The 1954 painting of the Queen by eight-time Archibald Prize winner Sir William Dargie formed the centrepiece of the service.

It was surrounded by Australia's floral emblem, the golden wattle, and the Queen's favourite flowers, sweet peas and dahlias.

The Queen died on September 8 aged 96, having reigned as Australia's head of state for 70 years.

She visited the country 16 times during her reign, consulted with 16 prime ministers, and 16 governors-general served in her name.

Both houses of parliament will sit on Friday to speak on a condolence motion for the Queen and pay tribute to King Charles III.