Churchill Fellows Meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
7 May 2014
Thursday 24 April - Government House - Canberra
James Brazill-Boast (2012 Churchill Fellow) shares his experience:
It was an ordinary afternoon at work when I received a phone call from Paul Tys, CEO of the Churchill Trust, who wanted to know if I was available on the 24 April to attend a reception with the Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Government House in Canberra. At first I thought incredulously, ‘why me?’ Paul explained that I ticked all of the right boxes for the Governor General’s invitation; a Churchill Fellow, young (ish), involved in wildlife conservation and had completed my Fellowship in the UK (Cambridge – even more apt).
After some quick re-organising of appointments and buying a new suit, my wife Emma and I were off to Canberra. We arrived on Thursday morning and went straight to Churchill House to have a fantastic lunch with Paul Tys and Meg Gilmartin from the Trust's National Offfice as well as fellow Churchill Fellow Lynda Close - a speech therapist from Brisbane - and her partner Ross.
After lunch the afternoon was spent making ourselves look presentable for royalty (‘lounge suit’ and ‘cocktail dress’ required), before being picked up from the hotel by our driver.
The winding drive up through the grounds to Government House was busy with others arriving, television crews and security. Upon arrival we were greeted by the Governor General’s staff and ushered into a very grand reception room where we were offered a drink and set about working out how to mingle with this type of crowd. There were about 100 people in the room, all high-achievers of some description, including Victoria Cross recipients, Olympians, Australians of the Year, professional athletes, solo round-the-world sailors, and a guy who had unicycled around Australia to raise funds for breast cancer.
After a quick welcome, briefing and introductory speech by the Governor General, the Duke and Duchess made their way around the room separately (we were reminded to stay in our place and not follow them). Our opportunity to meet William came quite early, a small group of us introduced ourselves and the Duke chatted away about the highlights of his trip so far and his experiences with local wildlife. He had seen kangaroos for the first time on the grounds of Government House and was amazed at the volume of the parrots (apparently his grandmother had forewarned him about this).
I found the Duke to be very friendly and more down-to-earth than I expected, especially given that the reception came at the end of what must have been a very arduous schedule of public appearances over the preceding 10 days.
It was a great night, we met a lot of very impressive people (and made sure to recommend a Churchill Fellowship to many of them) and walked away with the experience of a lifetime.
A big thank you must go to Paul Tys and the rest of the Churchill Trust team for putting my name forward and organising everything for our trip!
Lynda Close (2009 Churchill Fellow) shares her experience...
Approximately 100 people gathered at a special reception for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Thursday 24 April, including some of our country's icons - actors, singers, athletes, servicemen, people who excel in their field.
For me, it was a privilege in itself to meet and talk to such an amazing group of Australians, let alone shake hands and converse with the young royal couple.
With humour and warmth, the Governor General, The Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, made the opening address to welcome their Royal Highnesses and reflect on their tour of Australia. This then set the scene for the Duke and Duchess to circulate around the room to meet everyone.
Her Royal Highness made her way to our group and greeted everyone, having a conversation with each of us. The Duchess asked me about my profession as a Speech Pathologist working with children with hearing loss and their families at Hear and Say in Brisbane, and thoughtfully asked about why I chose this career path. Her relaxed demeanour and caring questions made for easy conversation; she was truly interested in every person’s story.
Thank you to the Churchill Trust for inviting myself and Ross to attend this amazing event, it was without a doubt, a once in a lifetime experience for both of us!