Six-year-old Canberra twin brothers Oliver and Sebastian Lye are about to have the experience of a lifetime as they help the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge fulfill one of their many engagements in Canberra over the next two days and the national capital gets its time to shine on the royal tour.
The ACT may have had the highest ‘‘yes’’ vote in the 1999 republic referendum but that doesn’t mean its residents are immune from royal fever.
William and Kate have a busy schedule stretching across 28 hours on official business in Canberra before they fly out for home at 2pm on Friday, ending what has been a wildly successful tour of Australia and New Zealand for the young royal family.
With a mostly sunny morning forecast for Canberra on Thursday, Their Royal Highnesses will plant an English oak tree at the National Arboretum Canberra and tour the pod playground. There were earlier ‘‘no plans’’ for baby Prince George to join other local children in the sandpit but it remains to be seen what unfolds on the day.
The official tree planting is due to start at 10.30am when the royal couple will be met by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher but the arboretum is closed to the public for the morning.
Fifty people who won their place at their planting through the ballot staged by the ACT Government will be there, with bells on. The arboretum will re-open at noon so that people can view the tree.
Young twins Oliver and Sebastian will help the royals water in the newly-planted tree.
Sebastian, who has Down syndrome, attends Malkara special school in Garran. He was recently recognised with a special little legend award from Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann, acknowledging children achieving while dealing with adversity. Oliver attends St Jude’s Primary School in Holder. Both boys play soccer and love to swim.
The boy’s mother Moira Lye has had an ongoing battle with cancer over many years. She has worked for ACT Health and was the previous manager of the Canberra Hospital Foundation. Her husband Greg and her three other children Madeleine (aged 15), Zachary (aged 13) & Harrison (aged 10) will also attend the tree planting.
Students from Black Mountain School will also make a presentation to the royal couple before they tour the pod playground to meet local children.
William and Kate’s next engagement will be at Parliament House when the royal couple are due to arrive at 1pm on Thursday for a reception hosted by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the Great Hall.
Viewing areas for the public will be set up in the Marble Foyer and on the Forecourt of Parliament House.
Parliament House will be open to the public at 9am. However, public entry to the building will not be possible between 12.30pm and 2.30pm. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early. They can leave the building at any time.
The royal couple will be presented to president of the Senate John Hogg and his wife Sue. Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and his wife Chloe. There will be speeches, including from William, with all ears tuned to his thoughts on his latest Australian tour. Gurrumul Yunupingu will provide entertainment. On a lighter note, Mr Abbott is expected to present William with a Brumbies jumper and a smaller one emblazoned with ‘‘George’’, pictured, for Prince, not Gregan. Kate and William are then due to leave Parliament House on Thursday at 2.20pm.
They will travel not far down the Parliamentary Triangle to the National Portrait Gallery where they are due to arrive at 2.25pm for a tour of the gallery. They will depart at 3.45pm. They will be greeted by National Portrait Gallery chair Dr Helen Nugent and director Angus Trumble.
The gallery’s chief patron and prime minister’s wife Margie Abbott and Arts Minister Senator George Brandis will be among those presented to the royal couple.
Their tour will include meeting Gurrumul Yunupingu and Dr John Yu, both subjects of paintings, and Jiawei Shen who painted the portrait of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.
Thursday night will be spent at a reception at Government House from 6.10pm attended by about 100 guests across the spectrum including the arts, sport, business, defence, youth, defence and charitable concerns. Friday is all about commemorating one of Australia’s most solemn days, Anzac Day.
William and Kate will attend the national ceremony at the Australian War Memorial, due to arrive at 10.30am. They will also plant a tree at the memorial.
Then it is on to Fairbairn, where the royals will fly out of Canberra and Australia at 2pm, bound for home, confident their debut tour Down Under as a young family has been a roaring success.
- Join us for our live coverage of the Royals trip to Canberra from 10am Thursday and 9.30am Friday.