Britain's Prince William (front C) and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (R), stand with Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (front R) as they sing the national anthem during a reception at Parliament House in Canberra on April 24, 2014.
Britain's Prince William (front C) and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (R), stand with Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott (front R) as they sing the national anthem during a reception at Parliament House in Canberra on April 24, 2014. MARK GRAHAM

Prince William pays tribute to nation's indigenous heritage

WARM references to the "lucky country" and a quip about Prince George's affection for his recently acquired (and apparently tasty) toy wombat, capped off the Duke of Cambridge's farewell speech to Australia as the royal couple were honoured at Parliament House on Thursday.

With Friday's Anzac Day Service their last official Australian engagement, William used his speech at the parliamentary reception to pay tribute to the nation's Indigenous heritage, work ethic and brave diggers.

While Prime Minister Tony Abbott's joke about the royals being more popular in Manly than the city's surfing son Kelly Slater fell a little flat, William's nod to the nation's "legendary" sporting history drew loud applause and resounding "hear hears".

Light-hearted topics were balanced by the tougher ones.

Describing Australia as being "on the front rank internationally," William said that while the nation "may be known as the lucky country- often the hardier the work, the luckier you get".

He said Australia was at the heart of the Asia-Pacific's rise as global economic powerhouse and as a "champion of justice", continued to play an invaluable role in building an "open and peaceful" region.

Recalling the lead up to the Australian visit, a first for Kate and George, said "anticipation has become deep admiration", thanked the country for it's ""warmth and generosity" and said his family was reluctant to leave.

"We go away with wonderful memories, and George goes away with his cuddly wombat, which he has taken to chewing so lovingly," he said

"We greatly look forward to coming back. And when we do return, it will be to marvel again at all that Australia is, and will yet become."

Speeches were followed by a performance by blind Indigenous singer Gurrumul who has now performed for three generations of royals.

From the reception, the royals were taken on a tour of the National Portrait Gallery.

Earlier, they stopped at the National Arboretum to help plant an English oak tree, representing strength and endurance in remembrance of the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

They will attend Friday's Anzac Day Service at Canberra's War Memorial before flying home.

The Duke told the crowd at the reception that he and Kate looked forward to paying tribute to the Anzac's - not only to Friday's service but also, along with Prince Harry, taking part in next year's Gallipoli Centenary.



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