Menu Subscriber Icon

The legacy Lady Flo left behind her in the regions

Senator Flo Bjelke-Petersen, pictured alone.

The legacy Lady Flo left behind her in the regions

South Burnett

THE South Burnett would not be the place it is today without the influence of Lady Florence Bjelke- Petersen and Sir Joh Bjelke- Petersen, according the South Burnett deputy mayor Kathy Duff.

"They both really did a lot for this region," Cr Duff said.

She said during his time as Premier, Sir Joh was known as a leader who got things built in the regions.

"The Bjelke-Petersen Dam, the railway extension in the South Burnett, the Kingaroy and Wondai airports; those are just a

few things Sir Joh did," she said.

"He also did a lot of work at Cherbourg, helping to get Murgon and Cherbourg working well together."

She said Sir Joh and Lady Flo put Kingaroy on the map.

"Wherever you go in Australia if you say you come from Kingaroy, people know that is where the Bjelke-Petersens are from," she said.

"Without the Bjelke- Petersen family, Kingaroy and the South Burnett would be a lot poorer a place and a lot less known."


Kathy Duff with Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Kathy Duff with Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Contributed

Cr Duff also worked closely with both Sir Joh and Lady Flo in her role as the Barambah Electorate Council secretary.

"It involved doing the secretarial work for the electorate council, which was very busy as we had the Premier as the member," she said.

"That's how I got started in my interest in politics, because of Sir Joh.

"I was also heavily involved in the Young Nationals in Kingaroy."

Cr Duff said she was saddened when she heard of Lady Flo's death.

"As far as Lady Flo goes, she was an inspiration and role model to women of all ages," she said.

"As a senator she led by example, she had a faultless loyalty and dedication to her work.

"She was also kind and caring, she remembered people's names. She was strong and forthright. She crossed the floor in Parliament to stand up for what she believed in. She had a no-fuss approach to everything."


The Bjelke-Petersen Dam was named after the family.
The Bjelke-Petersen Dam was named after the family. Heath Pukallus

She said one of her fondest memories was watching Lady Flo give a speech at a school.

"She went to a function at a school and made a speech, told a story about her life and at the end she said it is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice," she said.

"She was no fuss, that was her style."

Cr Duff said this inspired her.

"I absolutely admired them both, they inspired everybody in our region," she said.

"I was just so fortunate to have an association with the Bjelke-Petersen family."

Cr Duff said the last time she had seen Lady Flo was at the opening of the community hospital named in her honour.

"Sir Joh and Lady Flo were just always very supportive of rural communities," she said.

"I honestly think they did an amazing amount of things for our area."

Personal connection to hospital

WHILE Lady Flo will forever be remembered for her pumpkin scones, her name will live on at the Lady Florence Bjelke- Petersen Community Hospital in Kingaroy.

When the name of the refurbished community hospital was announced in 2016, Lady Flo said the hospital meant a great deal to her because it was where she had given birth to her children.

"I feel it's a great honour," Lady Flo said at the time.

"I have shared a lot with that hospital in my time.

"It's very thoughtful of them and I want them to know I appreciate it very much."

John Bjelke-Petersen said in 2016 he was proud of the hospital and the contribution it had made to the community over the years.

"Dad was there for the last few days of his life," Mr Bjelke-Petersen said.

"Staff have always been great and we've always appreciated that hospital."



Former South Burnett mayor Wayne Kratzmann said naming the hospital after Lady Flo would help the community feel connected to the council- owned facility.

"We wanted to name it after somebody and our most famous resident is Lady Flo so we never gave any thought for anybody else," he said in 2016.

The hospital is just one of many places in the region named after members of the Bjelke-Petersen family.

Deputy mayor Kathy Duff said the naming of various places recognised the impact of the Bjelke- Petersens on the region.

"We recognise them through the naming of different structures and parks," Cr Duff said.

"In Kingaroy there is the Bjelke-Petersen Park, in Murgon there is Lady Bjelke-Petersen Place.

"In Kingaroy there is the Lady Florence Bjelke- Petersen Community Hospital.

"There are numerous buildings named after Sir Joh, honouring the family's memory and their legacy of building things, progressing our region and progressing Queensland."

One of the more well- known regional landmarks named after the family is the Bjelke-Petersen Dam near Murgon, which Sir Joh's government helped to construct.

"Sir Joh was known for building dams," Cr Duff said.


Lady Flo enjoying the pink hibiscus named after her.

Photo Kate Darvall/ South Burnett Times
Lady Flo enjoying the pink hibiscus named after her. Photo Kate Darvall/ South Burnett Times Kate Darvall

Namesake a blooming honour

SHE was known for her vibrant personality and colourful spirit but the colours of Lady Flo had never been quite so purple.

Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen is a household name but who knew it was also a household flower?

Wondai garden enthusiast Dell Beers featured the exotic, purple hibiscus in her garden but worried the flower did not have the fame it deserved.

"I hadn't heard of the Lady Flo before but they showed me a picture and I was sold," Mrs Beers said in 2015.

Mrs Beers said she used to go to the Wondai garden festival and buy the most exotic and different looking flowers.

"It's very delicate and feminine," she said.

She said the colour of the Lady Flo shone through between a muddle of other hibiscus in her front garden.

"It wouldn't really matter what colour it was, it's special because of the name," Mrs Beers said.

"Any flower would be lovely named after Lady Flo."

Lady Flo said she was not lucky enough to grow the purple hibiscus in her own garden at Orana but was happy other people could enjoy it.

"It's pretty, and I think it's quite an honour to have such a beautiful flower named after me," Lady Flo said.


Lady Flo shared her love of good old fashioned, family country cooking in her cook book. 

Photo Helen Spelitis / South Burnett Times
Lady Flo shared her love of good old fashioned, family country cooking in her cook book. Photo Helen Spelitis / South Burnett Times Helen Spelitis

Flo could make scones with 'eyes closed'

PUMPKIN scones are undoubtedly Florence Bjelke-Petersen's major claim to fame.

Before she started her family, Lady Flo, as she was affectionately known, admitted she hadn't had much experience in the kitchen.

But with a bit of practice she became more than a proficient cook and released a book with 500 recipes including her personal favourites, pumpkin scones and sponge cake.

"I could make sponge cake and scones with my eyes closed," Mrs Bjelke-Petersen said.

But after Lady Flo gained office as a Queensland Senator, cooking became a bit of a chore.

She was elected at the 1980 federal election, serving for 12 years from 1981-1993 and she was well liked among other politicians, the people and the media.

"I was privileged to represent the people of Queensland for such a long time," she said. "I enjoyed the opportunity and I was actually very surprised when I got in."

Perhaps Lady Flo's popularity among the people could be attributed to her down-to-earth and charitable nature, despite being the wife of the premier. "I was very approachable and people felt comfortable coming to me with any problems they needed help with," she said.

But she was also a pioneer among women, being one of few female members of the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s.

"You had a responsibility to represent women in politics because there weren't as many women in parliament as there are today," she said.