I regard my life pre-eminently as a fortunate life. Why did it happen to me? It could've happened to so many others, but I had the luck. The ball was thrown to me and that was the image that I had, my job was to catch it. Don't drop it.
I got to know Sir Zelman first of all in the 1980s. By that time in his life, he had achieved the greatest pinnacle open to an Australian in being Governor-General. And then very fittingly, for somebody who had devoted almost all of his career to education, he'd come back to Oxford as the Provost of Oriel. I see a man who was not particularly seeking honours or glory, but committed to making a contribution in people's lives.
One thing that was interesting about Zelman was he knew so much. He seemed to be able to absorb information, and then re-categorise it and understand it, and then teach it. Many of the people who I've spoken to about him over the years have said that he was the great teacher.
Reading, engagement, thinking, these were the touchstones of Dad's life. He believed in using your mind to engage in the world.
I don't think there was anybody more important than Sir Zelman in shaping the development of legal education in Australia.
Melbourne has officially said goodbye to their retiring Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen.
Sir Zelman Cowen accepted the post of Governor-General at a very difficult time. He followed the turbulent term in office of Sir John Kerr.
Whatever you think of the rights and wrongs of 1975, his stabilisation of the Governor-Generalship, bringing the Australian community together again, I think that was very, very important.
I think he was a brilliant choice on the part of Malcolm Fraser, because he hadn't been a politician, he hadn't been a judge as Sir John Kerr had been. He was legal scholar. He was tremendously energetic, and he went everywhere making speeches on the most obscure subjects to the smallest town. He and Lady Cowen, they brought what he called a touch of healing, a touch of healing.
The Governor-General offers encouragement and recognition to many of those Australians who might not be very powerful or visible in the course of everyday life.
He felt he had an obligation to explain to the public how their institutions worked, what the rights they had, what obligations they had, what responsibilities they had.
I think that right at the heart of Sir Zelman's values was a completely uncompromising integrity. I think that related to an uncompromising pursuit of the truth and of understanding as deeply as one could, whatever the topic was.
I've argued for tolerance, for a broad and sympathetic understanding. Everything I've tried to do has been to reconcile.
There's a lovely piece in the college record at Oriel, where they wondered whether Zelman and after he'd been Governor-General could shrink himself into the position as the Provost of Oriel College. The answer that Michael Howard very graciously wrote was that there was no need to worry about that. Zelman didn't need to shrink himself down, he elevated everybody else around him up.
I guess that I've always had a belief in the values of the democratic liberal society. What I was doing was a service to that society.
Dad was not an elitist. He was a person who would want this for everybody. Giving people opportunity, of giving people a voice, of giving people the tools and the ability and the access to be part of a bigger, stronger, more functional community. This is who he was.
Zelman's memoirs are dedicated to Anne. He says, "Above all, I wish to thank my wife, who, as in so much else over 60 years, has been a wholehearted supporter. She has been, and is, incomparable.