It's wonderful to be here today on K’gari – or Fraser Island. I would first like to acknowledge the Butchulla People, the Traditional Owners of this beautiful island who care for it deeply and have welcomed us so warmly.
I would also like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Bulburin National Park, the Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier and Minister for Trade, and other guests.
Today we are here to dedicate this island to The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy – an initiative established in honour of my grandmother The Queen's lifetime of service to the Commonwealth.
This is actually the second time this plaque has been unveiled - which I know is highly unusual.
The first time was by my father – The Prince of Wales – in Bundaberg earlier this year when he was visiting. I now have the privilege of unveiling it in situ. I know that my father came to K’gari in 1994 for a "day off" during a Royal Tour so he has an appreciation of the importance of this place.
Luckily we are both highly skilled when it comes to unveiling plaques!
As well as being the largest sand island in the world, it has been World Heritage listed in recognition of its exceptional beauty, biodiversity and cultural significance. World Heritage sites play a critical role in supporting local economies and livelihoods. Their destruction can and is having devastating consequences that go way beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value.
And, at a time when so many natural World Heritage sites are under threat, it is more important than ever to protect this island for all the reasons that we have mentioned.
The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy is an opportunity for the Commonwealth to unite to protect one of the world’s most important natural habitats – forests. Forty-two out of the 53 countries are now taking part and I hope that others will join soon.
The programme is committed to raising awareness of the value of indigenous forests and to saving them for future generations. Put simply, without trees and forests, we don’t survive. It is a symbiotic relationship, and one that so many people still fail to realise.
Across Australia, twenty million trees are now being planted for the QCC, providing habitat to support threatened species, and capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.
K’gari, and Bulburin National Park which my father also dedicated on his recent visit, are the first protected areas in Queensland to be recognised under the QCC initiative. There are now more than 200,000 acres of protected forest here on this island, and that is an enormous achievement.
As you all know too well, K’gari means ‘paradise’, and that is certainly what we’ve experienced today surrounded by the towering Kauri pines, 1000 year-old satinay trees and ancient giant ferns.
It is up to us now to protect this paradise together – not just because it looks beautiful - but because it is an essential part of our existence, and will continue to be for our children and their children's children.