Gil Oakes
Gil Oakes

Local link to historic day

HIS blood proudly resembles a certain shade of maroon, but Warwick man Gil Oakes was surprised to learn his ancestor was firmly against the separation of Queensland and New South Wales as parliament's first speaker in 1859.

A trip to his Rose City letter box held a bolt from the blue for the 79-year-old this month as Queensland's current speaker the Honourable John Mickel MP requested his attendance at the 150th anniversary of the state's first sitting on Saturday.

Similar to a State of Origin umpire's role of ensuring orderly conduct, Queensland Parliament's first speaker and Mr Oakes's great-great-grandfather Gilbert Eliott stopped bickering from our pollies for a decade from 1860.

“He opposed the separation of Queensland from New South Wales but I saw Queensland win (on Wednesday night),” Mr Oakes said.

Guided by his carer Del Carter, Mr Oakes went to Brisbane and rubbed shoulders with the state's heavyweights which included Queensland governor Penelope Wensley who got in on the photo action.

“I have all the certificates – I'm not a ring-in – otherwise I wouldn't have received the letter,” Mr Oakes laughed.

“When we arrived we didn't really know where to go or what to do but (Mr Mickel) spotted us in the crowd and his wife came over and looked after us... we didn't have to go through the metal detectors.”

Mr Mickel said he was especially pleased Mr Oakes was able to be present for the launch of the Speaker's Corner project in the George Street forecourt of Parliament House.

“This location is one where people traditionally have gathered or come to voice protest,” Mr Mickel said.

“The plaque the governor, Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley, and I unveiled includes a quote from Mr Oakes' great-great-grandfather, the first speaker, Mr Gilbert Eliott.

“The quotation from the first sitting day was one of Speaker Eliott urging new members of the Legislative Assembly to show tolerance and self-control, and resist taking offence at what might be said to them.

“I would urge on honourable members mutual forbearance and self-control, and the necessity of not taking exception to words and expressions which might bear a very different interpretation to that which at the time they might be disposed to attach to them.”

Mr Mickel introduced Mr Oakes to the governor during a morning tea on the Speaker's Green at Parliament House.

More than 2000 people attended the open day at Parliament House.

“It was tremendous that Mr Oakes could be present,” Mr Mickel said. “It provided a direct link back to that first day when the Parliament sat in 1860 and Gilbert Eliott as Speaker was in charge of proceedings in the Legislative Assembly.”

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