Flown in from all corners of the country for a weekend's worth of Australia Day celebrations, the nominees, described by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove as the "the brilliance of this nation", took in their regal surroundings and tried not to overwhelmed.
"It's a lot to take in," said Victoria's nominee, domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Batty. "You find yourself in this remarkable setting, surrounded by incredible people and you feel like an imposter."
Batty's fellow nominee, London bombing surivor Dr Gill Hicks, told The Weekly she had been humbled by the accolade, while NSW nominee and adoption advocate Deborra Lee Furness said she was just pleased to be able to share the moment with her mum.
Over champagne and canapés in the finely-appointed main reception room, the Governor-General His Excellency Sir Peter Cosgrove captured the mood of nominees with a rousing speech.
"Many of you will have found the experience of being a nominee a rollercoaster of a ride or a fairytale," he said. "But what you don't appreciate is when we look at you, and when we are in your presence, we are in awe of you. You are the brilliance of this nation."
Outgoing Australian of The Year, Adam Goodes, proved a popular draw card (second only to Deborra Lee in demand for selfies). Reflecting on his year as Australian of the Year, he said the best piece of advice he could offer his replacement was "to just be yourself".
"It hasn't exactly been hard work, but it's been work," he said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring attention to a cause that is close to your heart."
Asked what he intended to do with the platform he had been given, the star footballer replied cryptically: "The role finishes for me tomorrow but the journey continues."