Defence Minister Richard Marles paid tribute to The Queen as “completely devoted” after it was announced she died in the early hours of Friday morning.
Her Majesty was known as a strong advocate of the RAAF. In March last year, she made only her third public appearance since the start of the COVID pandemic to honour the Air Force’s centenary.
The Queen attended a memorial service at the Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede to pay tribute to the 1,383 Australians who died fighting in Europe during World War II.
“For most of the population, we’ve only ever known the Elizabethan Age. There is a real sense that this is a very significant moment,” said Minister Marles on Friday morning.
“I felt shocked this morning as well. I woke to a text message from the Prime Minister alerting me of the news, but there is just an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life that she‘s led, what she’s meant to so many people and the service she has given.
“It is hard to think of another human being who has so completely devoted themselves to others, to her country, to the commonwealth as the Queen.”
The Royal Australian Air Force was given its royal prefix in 1921 on the authorisation of King George V.
Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said The Queen was a “woman of strength, humility and duty”.
“She was a model of leadership for millions around the world,” said Hastie. “She was our Queen. Like many Australians, I grew up conscious of her quiet presence.
“As a boy, I studied her dignity and grace. At the dinner table, my mother would urge us to eat as if Her Majesty was seated with us.
“As a man, I gladly took an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty both as a soldier and as a Parliamentarian.
“Along with many Australians, I feel great loss at her passing but also deep gratitude for the service that she gave as our Sovereign Lady. Rest In Peace. May God save King Charles III.”
Her Majesty died aged 96 in Balmoral, Scotland, after her family, including Prince Charles, rushed to her bedside.
It came after Buckingham Palace released an unprecedented statement on Thursday evening, Australian time, saying her doctors were “concerned for Her Majesty’s health” and members of her family were asked to join her at Balmoral.
Only on Tuesday, she swore in the new British Prime Minster Liz Truss, after former PM Boris Johnson stood down.
The Queen ruled for longer than any Australian Monarch in history, having taken to the throne in 1953.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “Through the noise and tumult of the years, she embodied and exhibited a timeless decency and an enduring calm.
“From the moment the young princess became Queen, shouldering the mighty weight of the institution into which she was born, Her Majesty made dedication to duty and service above self the hallmark of her reign.
“We saw those qualities each time she visited our shores, and she graced us on 16 occasions during her reign.
“As she said at the Sydney Opera House in the year 2000, ‘Since I first stepped shore here, I have felt part of this rugged, honest, creative land. I have shared in the joys and the sorrow, the challenges that have shaped this country’s history.’”
“Today marks the end of an era, the close of the second Elizabethan age. This time of mourning will pass but the deep respect and warm regard in which Australians always held Her Majesty will never fade. May she rest in eternal peace.”