Fraser Island Royal Visit - Harry meets Ruby Burns from the Butchulla Dancers at Pile Valley.
Fraser Island Royal Visit - Harry meets Ruby Burns from the Butchulla Dancers at Pile Valley. Alistair Brightman

ROYAL VISIT: Watershed moment as royalty comes to Fraser Is.

LED through towering forests, the Duke of Sussex was welcomed to Fraser Island by Butchulla locals with a traditional smoking ceremony.

More than 20 years after his father visited the island on a holiday visit, Prince Harry followed suit.

The newlywed royal spoke to a crowd of distinguished guests before unveiling of a plaque dedicating the forests of Fraser Island to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

The program is committed to preserving significant forests within the Commonwealth nations.

But in a cheeky aside before his speech started, a voice from the crowd complimented Prince Harry as being "better looking in person”, which momentarily threw him off guard.

"I'll take that as a compliment,” the blushing Prince told the crowd.

That comment came from well-known local and Butchulla elder Auntie Mally Clarke, 72, who said she was thrilled to see the prince in person.

During his impassioned speech at Pile Valley, the Duke of Sussex stressed the importance of preserving World Heritage Sites for future generations.

"Their destruction can and is having devastating consequences that go way beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value,” Prince Harry said.

"And, at a time when so many World Heritage Sites are under threat, it is more important than ever to protect this island.

"Put simply, without trees and forests, we don't survive, it is a symbiotic relationship and one that so many people still fail to recognise.

"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.”

Butchulla elder Auntie Joyce Smith, who has dedicated her life to preserving the natural and cultural heritage of Fraser Island, said it was wonderful to have this level of recognition from the Royal Family.

"My father was a woodcutter in the rainforest many years before I was born, and my grandfather was born on the Island with all the other elders” Ms Smith said.

"Fraser Island has had a life of nurturing, but it needs more.

"People need to show it a lot of respect, not only to nature but to other people on the island.”

Prince Harry's second engagement of the day on Fraser Island was to see the crystal clear waters of Lake McKenzie.

After taking off his shoes and having his feet cleansed by Aunty Nai Nai Bird, he took a quick ankle-deep dip in the shallows of the island's sacred freshwater lake.

He spent quite some time talking to Aunty Nai Nai and Butchulla songman Aaron Henderson, who showed him around the white beach of the ancestral meeting place.

It was a full-circle of royal encounters for Auntie Nai Nai, who previously met Prince Charles during his tour in 1994.

"I think he was blown away... the size of the timbers we took him to, the beauty of the lakes, talking with our songman, our rangers, and hearing it from both points of view on things he had not thought about,” she said.

Prince Harry was then taken to McKenzie's Jetty to learn about the island's history and logging trade.

He also had the chance to sample bush tucker-themed cuisine included dishes infused with lemon myrtle for lunch which was prepared by chefs from Kingfisher Bay Resort.

The Duke had travelled from the mainland to Fraser Island on the bumpy barge just like almost any other tourist, while a pregnant Meghan took a more sedate journey on a cruiser.

As they ended their day trip at Kingfisher Bay, Meghan in a white and grey-striped linen sun dress, looked happy and relaxed as she joined Harry for a walkabout.

Today, Prince Harry and Meghan will leave Australia and travel by charter flight to Fiji's capital Suva, to continue their 16-day tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.

They return to Sydney on Friday.



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