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Dame Quentin Alice Louise Bryce AD CVO

Ralph Heimans (b.1970), Quentin Alice Louise Bryce (detail), 2014, Historic Memorial Collection, Parliament House Art Collection. View full image

Governor-General, 5 September 2008 to 28 March 2014

Quentin Bryce (b.1942) was Australia’s first female Governor-General.1 A distinguished academic, lawyer, human rights advocate, and trailblazer, Bryce remarked on her appointment that ‘I grew up in a little bush town in Queensland of 200 people and what this day says to Australian women and to Australian girls is that you can do anything, you can be anything’.2

Bryce (née Strachan) was born in Brisbane in 1942, but spent her early years in Ilfracombe, east of Longreach in western Queensland. Her father, Norman Strachan, held various roles in the wool industry, while her mother Naida was a schoolteacher. Bryce was home-schooled and later boarded at Moreton Bay College before studying Arts and Law at the University of Queensland. She graduated in 1965 and that year was one of the first women admitted to the Queensland Bar. In 1964, she married architect Michael Bryce and they had five children.

Bryce was employed as a law lecturer and tutor at the University of Queensland between 1968 and 1983. She became known for publications and advocacy on employment discrimination and human rights law, particularly the rights of women and children. This informed much of her work, including as the inaugural director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service between 1984 and 1987, and the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner from 1988 to 1993.

After serving as Principal of Women’s College (University of Sydney) from 1997 to 2003, Bryce was appointed as Governor of Queensland – only the second woman to hold the role – following Leneen Forde’s governorship from 1992 to 1997.3 Bryce’s extensive achievements were recognised in a number of academic and civic awards. In 1988, she was made an AO in recognition of her work in the community, and an AC in 2003. In 2014, she became an AD.

Bryce was sworn in as Governor-General on 5 September 2008, and in that role she wrote more than 50 letters a day to Australians from all walks of life, and represented Australia while visiting some 55 countries.4 On the active nature of her role, she reflected in an interview, ‘I think that the role now is seen very much to have its heart in the community’.5 After her term finished, Bryce continued to be active in public life, including serving as chair of the Queensland Government’s Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence.

Ralph Heimans AM
Born in Sydney, Ralph Heimans (b.1970) studied fine art and pure mathematics at the University of Sydney. He received his first commission in 1988 and continued producing portraits, still-lifes and figurative works for private collectors. By 1996 he had established himself as a portraitist, painting prominent Australians for various public institutions. He moved to Paris the following year, undertaking commissions in Australia, New York, Boston, Santa Fe and Paris. Renowned for producing large-scale portraits, Heimans’s subjects include distinguished sitters from the fields of arts, academia, law, business, politics and philanthropy. In 2012 he was chosen to paint an official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to mark her Diamond Jubilee. His portraits of the Duke of Edinburgh (2017) and the Prince of Wales (2018) are in the Royal Collection. His works are held in major national and international collections and he received an AM for his service to portraiture in 2014.6

Quentin Alice Louise Bryce
by Ralph Heimans
Oil on canvas
136.2 x 190 cm
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

1. Information in this biography has been taken from: ‘Biography: The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO’, The Governor- General of the Commonwealth of Australia; Q Bryce, Dear Quentin: Letters of a Governor-General, The Miegunyah Press, Carlton, 2017; M Davis, ‘A Great Day for Women’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 2008, p. 1; K O’Brien, ‘Exclusive interview with Quentin Bryce’, The 7:30 Report, transcript, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 September 2008; M Condon, ‘To the manor born’, The Courier-Mail, 10 May 2008, p. 18; M McGinness, ‘Architect and aide par excellence’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 2021, p. 37. See also ‘Quentin Alice Louise Bryce’, in Historic Memorials Collection Portraits: Governors-General, Parliamentary Library, Parliament of Australia, Canberra, 2021.Websites accessed 12 April 2021.
2. Davis, op. cit.
3. ‘The Honourable Leneen Forde AC’, Alumni and Community, The University of Queensland, accessed 19 April 2021.
4. Bryce, op. cit.
5. O’Brien, op. cit.
6. Information in this biography has been taken from: ‘Ralph Heimans’, National Portrait Gallery; B Shields, ‘Ralph Heimans: royalty’s go-to painter’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 January 2011; ‘Artist: Ralph Heimans’, Philip Bacon Galleries; ‘Ralph Heimans: About’, Ralph Heimans. Websites accessed 25 May 2021.

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