Gillard toasts 'courageous' Queen

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has toasted a jewel-spangled Queen as a courageous leader responsible for the Commonwealth's miraculous survival.

"You are the heart of the Commonwealth, our bond of unity, our symbol of continuity," Ms Gillard told the Queen in front of leaders from more than 50 Commonwealth nations at the monarch's official CHOGM banquet in Perth on Friday.

"You have stewarded this unlikely organisation throughout six decades of immense and often painful change, decades where at times the survival of the Commonwealth must have seemed like a miracle."

The Queen looked dazzling in a full length ivory jaquard dress with beaded floral sequined lace, adorned with swarovski crystals.

She was wearing a full suite of jewellery which included the diamond necklace with large aquamarines and matching earrings given to her by Brazil on her coronation in 1953, and a matching bracelet.

The crowning glory was her tiara with aquamarine focal point which the Queen commissioned from the royal jeweller Garrard in 1957.

The Australian PM sat to the Queen's right at the head table at Perth's Pan Pacific hotel.

Her partner Tim Mathieson was seated at a nearby table which included Prince Philip and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Cameron earlier had announced a trust fund to finance public celebrations for the Queen's diamond jubilee next year, to which Ms Gillard said Australia would contribute.

The Australian PM said the Commonwealth stood strong, with its values clear and its future assured.

Delegates raised golden goblets when she proposed a toast to a "remarkable woman of duty and courage".

In the briefest of speeches in reply, the Queen told Commonwealth leaders: "I know you have a very busy agenda and I hope this occasion provides you all with the opportunity to relax.

"I am very pleased to be with you and I wish you every success in your discussions over the coming days."

The Commonwealth leaders and their spouses dined on an entree of crispy skinned barramundi in spring onion and ginger sauce, followed by a main course of lamb, baby root vegetables, fondant potatoes and salad.

Dessert was a lemongrass milk chocolate mousse with lychee sorbet and blueberry reduction.


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