By QDO President Brian Tessmann
Last Thursday, the 4th of January, Queensland remembered the passing of Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen by celebrating the life of a great advocate for both Queensland and rural Australia. The crowd at her funeral spilled out of the Kingaroy Town Hall into the forecourt and all the way to the footpath. Throughout the ceremony and afterwards people were remembering and sharing the positive, uplifting and humorous stories about the woman they called ‘Lady Flo’.
I shared a number of these stories myself, but to me her name was always Florence not Flo as that was what my Mother and Father always called her. My recollections of her started from when I was a child in the late 1960s with Florence occasionally coming over from her North-West-facing farm over to our side of the hill to watch news reports about her husband on a Brisbane station she couldn’t pick up at her place. Since then I, like many in the South Burnett, have lost count of how many important occasions, opening ceremonies and award presentations she would have addressed. Along the way she presented high-school junior/grade 10 certificates to two generations of my family and always remembered the high achievements of the region’s students. It did seem Florence was everywhere from being a part of the Lutheran church and local community, to being with Joh at State events, and to her very significant role as a senator at a national level.
While she did not grow up on a farm she spent most of her life on one and understood the struggles Queensland farmers faced. It was this understanding and appreciation of what farmers did and their way of life that made her such a fierce and effective advocate for our industry. While Queensland is poorer for her passing, we stop and take time to consider how blessed we all have been for having her as part of our state’s great story.