25 September 2023

Governor-General pays visit to Exco

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Outgoing Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove visited the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) in Canberra recently to thank the staff of the Federal Executive Council (Exco) Secretariat for their support over the past five years.

While at the Department, Sir Peter and Lady Lynne were shown the Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Australia which is applied to the base of many of the official documents he signed during that time.

The documents include Commissions of Appointment of judges, officers of the defence force, ambassadors and consuls as well as proclamations, administrative arrangements orders, warrants, orders and Letters Patent for the establishment of Royal Commissions.

Seals have an ancient history used through the years to authenticate a document. They traditionally make an impression in wax, clay, paper or some other medium.

The Australian Great Seal is mounted on a press with a counterpart mould to create a positive impression on the paper.

Formal provision for an Australian seal was first made in Letters Patent from Queen Victoria dated 29 October 1900 constituting the office of Governor General and Commander in Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia.

It provided that: ‘There shall be a Great Seal of and for Our said Commonwealth which Our said Governor-General shall keep and use for sealing all things whatsoever that shall pass the said Great Seal….’

Since the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia, there have been three seals.

The present (third) Great Seal of Australia was granted by Royal Warrant on 19 October 1973 by Queen Elizabeth.

The PM&C Officer who has operated the Great Seal press more than anybody else over the past 30 years is Mary Pretorius.

“I’ve been responsible for coordinating material incoming from all Commonwealth Agencies, for the Governor-General’s consideration, and ‘sealing’ relevant documents after they have been considered,” Ms Pretorius said.

Sir Peter and Lady Cosgrove complete their vice-regal service on 28 June.

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