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The Governor on FAR Out!

Two adults and school students. Adult male showing medals

In another first for the State Library the Learning Service team of Megan Perry and Michelle Lee presented a very special interactive FAR Out! workshop at Casino Pubic School on Friday 20 May. As with all Learning Service programs we only take out the rarest, most valued historical artefacts, and so it was that His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), Governor of New South Wales and his wife Mrs Linda Hurley were our special surprise guests for the students of Casino Public School.

Students were engaged in a Governors of NSW history workshop and covering Arthur Phillip, Lachlan Macquarie and the Governors who followed, the changes to the role over time and the current role of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Students had learnt about the original materials that were on display from the State Library including a letter from Arthur Phillip to Lord Lansdowne (1788) and Governor Macquarie’s orders to Mr Wentworth and a dinner party setting (1815), when a loud knocking sound came from the back door of the school hall. A loud and dramatic voice announced His Excellency and Mrs Hurley. The Governor and Mrs Hurley strode into the hall after the shocked students rose as one and with loud applause welcomed them to Casino Public School.

After being introduced to 3 students dressed as the first Governor of NSW Captain Arthur Philip, the 5th Governor, Governor General Lachlan Macquarie, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor spoke to the 150 Stage 3 students about his experience before he became Governor, how he became Governor and what his role entailed. He focussed on the 3 C’s – Constitutional, Ceremonial and Community. With great enthusiasm he spoke about his personal medals from Singapore, Indonesia, India and Malaysia and the United States of America that were displayed at the front of the hall. He handed these out for the students to examine closely. Next came Governor Eric Woodward’s Badges of honour, the Star and badge of a Knight of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem and the Star and Badge of a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George. Governor Woodward (1957 – 1965) was the first New South Welshman appointed as Governor of NSW, he fought at the battle of El Alemain in World War II and was the first Governor appointed by Queen Elizabeth II.

Following a very interesting discussion about previous Governors, His Excellency, with a great flourish removed a sword that was in a box and on display from Government House. The ceremonial sword was owned and worn by Air Marshall Sir James Rowland AC, KBE, DFC, AFC, 33rd Governor of New South Wales (1981 – 1989) who also fought in WWII and was shot down over Germany and was a Prisoner of War.  Very quickly the sword was relieved of its sheath and a student was asked to feel the blade. Students were enraptured and insisting on knowing if the sword was sharp or not. Apparently, ceremonial swords are blunt so no damage was done and the adults in the room resumed their seats! A discussion about the longest serving and shortest serving Governors took place.

Mrs Hurley then discussed the working of Government House and how they, as a family lived in such a beautiful home. Students were intrigued with the regal images displayed on the large screen, particularly of the large dining room table where State Dinners were held. She then presented to the students a real full dinner setting from government House and still in use today, which had been placed on its own table and set just at it would be Government House. Included were 3 crystal glasses, flatware, menu, an individual silver salt cellar and pepper shaker, dinner plate, side plate, placemat, place name card in a small but heavy silver holder and serviette all with their own distinctive crests. Of all of the items on display on the day, students were most intrigued by the silver and blue glass salt cellar and accompanying tiny spoon.   

Mrs Hurley then talked to the students about her life at Government House, her primary teaching background and her love of music, at which point the Governor talked about how every event at Government House includes singing. Mrs Hurley had the children sing a rousing chorus of Do Re Mi…

The Governor of NSW showing medals to students


Students asked questions about where they had most enjoyed living – the Hurleys had been stationed all over the world, what part of the job was most enjoyable and how the Governor became Governor. The Governor reinforced that his most important role was to connect with people across NSW and to advocate for them. He encouraged the teachers to bring their students to Government House in Sydney and even invited them to test out the furniture.

After a very warm, welcoming and informative event the Governor and Mrs Hurley left the hall and students then had an opportunity to view all of the collection materials on display. Teachers and students were overwhelmingly positive in their praise of the event and promised to visit us all in Sydney on their next visit.