Governor Linda Dessau has paid tribute to a succession of Victorian governors’ spouses and the role they played in supporting governors during their terms of office.
The May 30 oration at Government House was reportedly the final official speech Dessau made as Victoria’s 29th governor, a role she has held since 2015.
In 2019, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that with the Queen’s assent, she would serve a second term, to expire in June 2023.
Andrews this week announced Professor Margaret Gardner, vice-chancellor of Monash University, as the next governor.
Dessau, 70, Victoria’s first female governor, has been one of five Jewish vice-regal office holders in Australia, including Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir Zelman Cowen (governors-general), and governors Sir Matthew Nathan in Queensland and Gordon Samuels in NSW.
Dessau, a barrister, had served in leading roles, including as a Victorian magistrate and on the Family Court. In 2007, the ardent Essendon supporter became an AFL commissioner.
In her oration, Dessau recounted her first night in Government House and pondering the history each of its rooms held. “As I became more familiar with the history of the House, it was readily apparent to me that, although I was the first female governor, I was by no means the first woman to have influenced the work that happened in or from here.
“Across the eight years that have passed since that evening, I have appreciated just how much the governors’ spouses have contributed to our state. Indeed, more broadly, how much the spouses of public figures have contributed and continue to contribute,” she said.
Retracing governors’ spouses from colonial times onwards, Dessau paid tribute to her own spouse, Anthony Howard. “I know first-hand the time he has devoted, the ideas and causes that he has fostered, the programs he has initiated and the patronages that he has wholeheartedly supported.
“I can say that, it was in observing Tony’s contributions, both with me and through his own pursuits, in understanding how much harder this role would have been without his support, and in being able to enjoy the intimacy of a well-placed raising of the eyebrow, that I was enthused to look back at the other spouses.
“He is the first man in the role. I hope that he is the first of many, and that those who follow will enjoy continuing the legacy of contributions made by the governors’ spouses, as much as he has embraced and enjoyed the privilege of the opportunity to contribute.”