January 4, 2017
Lady Bjelke-Petersen was described as “a champion for rural women”, “her own person” and part of a “formidable political pairing” at her State Funeral held in Kingaroy on Thursday.
The crowd was less than that which turned out for Sir Joh’s funeral in March 2005, but was still an enormous tribute to a woman who many South Burnett residents regarded as their “local MP” while Sir Joh was Premier.
Lady Flo – as she was affectionately known by just about everyone – died on December 20 at Orana.
Current and former politicians were among the large crowd of mourners who packed into the Town Hall and took shelter from the heat under marquees erected outside.
The list of dignitaries was headed by Group Captain Simon Sauer AM CSC, Honourary Aide-de-Camp representing the Governor-General.
More recognisable to the crowd watching as the official cars pulled up were Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk … and Pauline Hanson, who was surrounded by a number of One Nation representatives as she strolled across Glendon Street.
The large media contingent rushed forward when the white cowboy hat of Member for Kennedy Bob Katter appeared.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell, former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and former Kingaroy Mayor Roger Nunn were also in attendance, as were councillors and former councillors.
Other MPs spotted by southburnett.com.au – and we’re sure we’ve missed a few – included Member for Maranoa David Littleproud, former Premier Rob Borbidge, Member for Gympie Trevor Perrett, former Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg, Member for Gold Coast David Crisafulli, Senator Bridget McKenzie, Senator Matt Canavan and Senator James McGrath …
Rev Mark Doecke, lead pastor at the South Burnett Lutheran Parish, conducted the service.
He highlighted several items of memorabilia which were carried into the Town Hall by family members as they processed down the centre aisle: Lady Flo’s hymn book, her Bible, a plate of pumpkin scones and a packet of Cherry Ripes.
The four children of Lady Flo took turns at reading the obituary, which detailed their mother’s career and strong Christian faith.
“She was a true woman of strength centred around her faith, her family and her community,” daughter Meg Noack read.
“Her leadership and care, proven so often in her public life, was brought to bear when it mattered most in her own home, and we will forever be grateful.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce then took the microphone to deliver a tribute to Lady Flo.
“She was her own person in Canberra,” he said.
He said she accepted people for what they were, but never shied away from her own beliefs.
“She didn’t just read a Bible, she wore it out,” he joked.
Mr Joyce also admitted he had spoken to Lady Flo about crossing the floor in Parliament.
“She said you’ve got to be brave enough to do what is right, but you also have to be mature enough to accept the consequences,” he said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Lady Flo had “helped and encouraged many more Queenslanders than Lady Flo herself could have ever known”.
“Joh and Flo would become a loving couple and make a formidable political pairing,” she said.
“Indeed, their first dinner date was at Parliament House – during a Parliamentary sitting week.
“After their wedding in 1952 – as they honeymooned in New Zealand – Flo, not Joh, received an invitation to open a fete in Murgon in her new husband’s electorate.
“It seems the people of the South Burnett recognised early on that they were getting two Bjelke-Petersens for the price of one.”
Ms Palaszczuk said she would seek permission from the Bjelke-Petersen family to dedicate part of the new 66-bed Kingaroy Hospital in Lady Flo’s honour.