Thank you Dan for that warm introduction.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land.
Their Elders, past, present and future, and their continuing connection to the land on which we meet today.
I pay respect to all First Nations people here with us.
And I restate our Government’s commitment to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
Including a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament.
Which the Australian of the Year, and every Australian will have the opportunity to vote on.
Thank you to the wonderful Wiradjuri Echoes.
Thank you, too, to our sponsors, who make these Awards possible.
Who recognise the value of lifting up great Australians.
NATIONAL GALLERY & AUSTRALIAN STORIES
It is lovely to be in this beautiful place, our National Gallery.
Home to treasured works of art and wonder.
It is well known for the Blue Poles by American artist Jackson Pollock.
But the stories and impact of Australian artists are equally remarkable.
Artists such as Arthur Boyd AC OBE, who was Australian of the Year in 1995.
In the 1950s, he produced his famous series ‘Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-Caste’.
It was inspired by his distress of the treatment of our First Nations people.
It achieved international acclaim, and was part of our reconciliation journey in raising much needed conversations.
Boyd chose not look the other way.
He chose to speak, though art, of the Australia we could build together.
It is the perfect place to honour other similar Australians who share this vision.
Everyone in this room has a vision of a better future.
Congratulations to all the 2023 nominees.
I have had the absolute privilege of meeting most of you in your home states and hearing your stories.
They are remarkable.
And they are unique.
No two journeys to this place are alike.
And yet you have this in common.
You all embody Australia’s values.
Courage. Integrity. Kindness.
You embody Australia’s hopes for who we can be.
That you can change lives, and save lives, by doing what you feel called to do.
Which brings me to our 2022 Australians of the Year, whom we’ll hear from shortly.
2022 AUSTRALIANS OF THE YEAR
Each one of them – Dylan, Val, Daniel, and Shanna – has made the most of their time as unofficial presidents of Australia.
Telling their story, expanding their influence, speaking their truth.
Whether it’s Shanna, changing the culture around alcohol in the bush.
Val, getting more young people to do first aid training.
Daniel, shining a light on homelessness.
Or Dylan, championing people with a disability.
Because, as he says, ‘it’s always more than you think.’
Each one of them has a message and a mission for Australia.
It was there in the heartfelt speeches they gave one year ago tonight.
Over at the National Arboretum, with the summer dusk behind them.
They each reflected on the things that had inspired them to do what they did.
The people that had loved and believed in them.
The events that had been turning points in their lives.
But it was something Val said that I think best captured what all of them are about.
She said this. ‘All life is precious.’
To all four of you, thank you for upholding this.
For serving as role models to our community, that every life is worth saving, worth living, worth fighting for.
Thank you for acting on the impulse to help.
And putting in the effort, the hours, the years to make a difference.
You have made a difference.
You have made our country a better place.
And to all of this year’s nominees, I say thank you too.
No matter who wins tonight, you all leave with a platform to continue your incredible work.
You leave with the gratitude and admiration of all Australians – and that’s something you’ll keep for the rest of your lives.
Arthur Boyd is remembered as one of Australia’s greatest painters.
Who confronted moral, social and environmental issues in his work.
He is remembered for a powerful message.
“You really don’t want to hang on to possessions.
You want to hang on to concepts.
Concepts involve the future whereas possessions don’t”.
Everyone we honour today is a thriving part of Arthur’s vision.
Determined to fundamentally change how we think and act about certain issues.
To create a future that is better for us all.
Thank you all, and congratulations.