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Governors-General of Australia

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Badge of the Governor-General of Australia © Commonwealth of Australia

Australia's national Floral Emblem: the Wattle © Commonwealth of Australia

The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia of the Australian monarch and, therefore, is Australia's Head of State. The Governor-General is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia.

The Governor-General has formal presidency over the Federal Executive Council and is Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force, as well as being the viceregal representative in the Australian Capital Territory. The functions of the Governor-General include appointing ministers, judges, and ambassadors; giving royal assent to legislation passed by Parliament; issuing writs for election; and bestowing Australian honours.

A Governor-General is not appointed for a specific term, but is generally expected to serve for five years subject to a possible short extension.

In the first 100 years of the Commonwealth of Australia, from 1 January 1901 to 31 December 2000, there were 22 Governors-General. No Tasmanian-born office holders to date.

The Governors-General of Australia

No. Photo Name Birth-place Spouse Years as Governor-General No. years Notes
1Sir John Hope KT GCMG GCVO PC, the 7th Earl of HopetounSouth Queensferry, Dalmany, West Lothian, ScotlandHon. Hersey Hope, Countess of Hopetoun1901-190218 mthsformerly governor of Victoria; resigned when parliament refused an allowance to recover private funds expended
2Sir Hallam Tennyson GCMG PC, the 2nd Baron TennysonTwickenham, Middlesex, EnglandAudrey, Baroness Tennyson1903-190412 mthshad sought only a twelve-month term
3Sir Henry Northcote GCMG GCIE CB, the 1st Baron NorthcoteMarylebone, Middlesex, EnglandAlice Northcote CI, Baroness Northcote1904-19084 yrs 8 mthssaw himself as diplomatic representative of the British government as well as vice-regal representative
4Major William Ward, the 2nd Earl of DudleyLondon, EnglandRachel Ward, Countess Dudley1908-19112 yrs 10 mths"He did nothing really important, nothing thoroughly, nothing consistently", Alfred Deakin
5Sir Thomas Denman GCMG KCVO, the 3rd Baron DenmanLondon, EnglandGertrude Denman, Baroness Denman1911-19142 yrs 10 mthsin poor health and his wife 'homesick', he resigned early; a timely decision as it turned out
6Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson GCMGRaith, Fife, ScotlandDame Helen Ferguson GBE1914-19206 yrs 5 mthswas politically influential and committed to his role as commander-in-chief during The Great War
7Sir Henry Forster GCMG, the 1st Baron ForsterCatford, Kent, EnglandLady Rachel Forster, Baroness Forster1920-19255 yrstravelled widely and was popular among the general public; both sons were killed in The Great War
8Sir John Baird GCMG, the 1st Baron StonehavenChelsea, London, EnglandLady Ethel Baird, Baroness Stonehaven1925-19305 yrsthe first governor-general to live in Yarralumla, Canberra; benefitted from the advent of aviation
9Sir Isaac Isaacs GMGC GCB PCMelbourne, VictoriaLady Deborah Isaacs1931-19365 yrsthe first Australian-born governor-general of Australia and the first Jewish governor-general
10Brigadier Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven VC GCMG, the 1st Baron GowrieWindsor, Berkshire, EnglandLady Zara Hore-Ruthven, Baroness Gowrie1936-19459 yrshaving previously been governor of SA, then NSW, he was almost an 'honorary' Aussie; acknowledged as a great commander-in-chief through the Second World War; first governor-general to represent Australia abroad
11Prince Henry KG KT GCMG GCVO PC, the Duke of GloucesterSandringham, Norfolk, EnglandPrincess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester1945-19472 yrs 1 mthresigned due to the need to act as senior counsellor of State whilst King George VI and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret toured South Africa
12Sir William McKell GCMG PCPambula, New South WalesLady Minnie McKell1947-19536 yrs 2 mthsthe NSW Premier when appointed governor-general, causing great controversy, however was noted for his integrity and dignity
13Field Marshal Sir William 'Bill' Slim KG GCB GCMG GCVO GBE DSO MCBishopston, Gloucestershire, EnglandLady Aileen Slim1953-19606 yrs 9 mthspopular governor-general as he was an authentic war hero who had fought alongside Australians at Gallipoli, the Middle East and the Pacific
14Sir William Morrison GCMG MC PC, Viscount DunrossilTorinturk, Argyllshire, ScotlandCatherine Morrison, Viscountess Dunrossil1960-19611 yr?? died in office
15Sir William Sidney VC GCMG GCVO, Viscount De L'IsleChelsea, London, EnglandLady Jacquelyn Sidney, Viscountess De L'Isle (died 1962)1961-19653 yrs 9 mthsbeing the last non-Australian to hold the position was not a slight on Sidney but a growing national feeling
16Sir Richard Casey KG GCMG CH DSO MC PC, Baron CaseyBrisbane, QueenslandLady (Ethel) Maie Casey1965-19694 yrsthe only constitutional issue during his tenure was the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967; named 1969 Father of the Year
17Sir Paul Hasluck GCMG GCVOFremantle, Western AustraliaLady Alexandra Hasluck1969-19745 yrs 2 mthshad been Minister for Defence and Minister for External Affairs during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation and Vietnam War
18Sir John Kerr AK GCMGBalmain South, New South WalesLady Alison Kerr1974-19773 yrs 5 mthsmajor constitutional crisis, although entitled, when he sacked the Whitlam government; he resigned mid-term citing poor health
19Sir Zelman Cowan AK GCMG GCVO PCMelbourne, VictoriaLady Anna Cowan1977-19824 yrs 8 mthsa distinguished Australian with an international reputation; whose knowledge of the Constitution and the law were beyond dispute
20Sir Ninian Stephen AK GCMG GCVOHenley, Oxfordshire, EnglandLady Valerie Stephen1982-19896 yrs 7 mthsmigrated to Australia with his family at 16; was well-respected by both sides of politics
21Hon. William 'Bill' Hayden ACBrisbane, QueenslandDallas Hayden1989-19967 yrsformer leader of the federal opposition; severed his political connections to assume office; first atheist governor-general
22Sir William Deane AC KBESt Kilda, VictoriaLady Helen Deane1996-20015 yrs 4 mthswas Australia's first Roman Catholic governor-general; a low profile during his five-year term, facing no major constitutional issues
23Right Reverend Peter Hollingworth AC OBEAdelaide, South AustraliaAnn Hollingworth2001-20031 yr 11 mthsbecame the third Australian governor-general to resign, after criticisms over his conduct as Archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s
24Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MCWiluna, Western AustraliaMarlena Jeffery2003-20085 yrs 1 mthformerly governor of Western Australia, became the first Australian career soldier to be appointed Governor General
25Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVOBrisbane, QueenslandMichael Bryce AM AE2008-20145 yrs 6 mthsformerly a governor of Queensland; first woman to become governor-general of Australia
26General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MCSydney, New South WalesLady Lynne (Payne) Cosgrove2014-20195 yrs 3 mthsformerly chief of the Defence Force and a popular and well-respected governor-general and humanitarian
27David Hurley AC DSCWollongong, New South WalesLinda (McMartin) Hurley2019-present-formerly chief of the Defence Force and governor of New South Wales

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