The women who made the Queen laugh

·2-min read

The pale green dress and matching high heels Nelleke Gorton wore to meet the Queen still hang in her wardrobe, a reminder of a remarkable day in 1988.

"She was my queen. I know she was everyone's queen, but I always say she was my Queen," Mrs Gorton told AAP.

Mrs Gorton and her friend Coral Carter were living in the remote mining town of Telfer, Western Australia, when they won a ballot to meet the Queen during the bicentenary royal tour.

Mrs Gorton recalled feeling more "wonderment" than nerves as the Queen approached them on the lawns of Government House during a garden party in Perth.

"The Queen immediately asked where we lived and what we thought of it," Mrs Gorton said.

"It was amazing, we thought she would just shake hands.

"That's when we made her laugh. She said to us, 'How long are you going to be there?'

"And Coral said, 'Well ma'am, I told my husband two years and then I'm leaving'.

Mrs Gorton, a member of the Country Women's Association in Bega, southern NSW, said her admiration of the Queen was always a source of mirth because her birth country of Holland had its own monarchy.

"I thought 'No, I'm Australian now, this is my Queen'.

Queen Elizabeth II, who died overnight, had a long affinity with rural Australia, having visited about 50 towns outside the capital cities on her first tour in February 1954, six months after she was crowned.

She flew 16,000 kilometres over 57 hours, and travelled 3,200 kilometres by road, along with journeys on the royal train, according to National Archives records.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took in sheep shearing and wood chopping demonstrations during their visit to Wagga Wagga, NSW, where 100,000 people gathered in the sweltering summer heat.

Denise Fergusson stood on the roof of her uncle's masonry shop to catch a glimpse of the young Queen.

Her mother dressed her in black patent leather shoes, and an enormous bow for the occasion.

"Mum decked us all out - not that the Queen could see us - and I wouldn't keep my shoes on because it was a very hot day," recalled Mrs Fergusson, a member of the Wagga Wagga CWA.

"It was one of the most exciting things I've seen in my life and it seemed to lift the morale of country people."

Decades later, Her Majesty described rural communities as "the very heart and soul of Australia" when she made a private donation to drought relief efforts in 2018.

Mrs Gorton said she would never forget her 10 minutes with the Queen, who was deeply curious about life in outback Australia.

"It was a momentous occasion, one of the most special days."