Australian of Year 2022 Lunch

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister and Cabinet,
Minister for the Public Service,
Special Minister of State

Thank you very much, Dan. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate, musical introduction for a Western Australian Member of Parliament, and a credit to the two Western Australian nominees that joined me on the on Friday to come over – we still call Australia home. I would like to acknowledge the… I must admit Kendall and Craig got on the plane not knowing when they might be able to get back, but when they do they will face quarantine. So it’s a commitment to them to come over to Canberra and be part of this very special event. I’m very pleased that they have.

To the traditional custodians of the land on which being made today. I pay my respects to their elders past and present, and thank you very much for your most moving Welcome to Country that we experienced today.

To the Australian of the Year Alumni, you continue all to do us proud.

To Karlie and to Danni and the team of the National Australia Day Council (NADC), thank you for what you do, not only with the Australian of the Year Awards, but with Australia Day in general. And you have worked very hard as a Board and an organisation to ensure that we make Australia Day more inclusive. So that we can reflect, that we can respect, and that we can celebrate. To reflect on the past, to respect each other’s stories, and to celebrate our future together, because we are all part of the story of Australia.

On Australia Day, we do reflect about our ancient, multicultural nation and we value the contribution of each citizen. We respect the differences, and I’m pleased to see that there is a resurgence of support for Australia Day across Australia.

See, the NADC has worked hard in the role that it plays because quite often Australia Day, it can be a, in my view a divisive debate about changing that date. And I welcome that debate. But what the National Australia Day Council has done is said that this is an important date. It means different things to different people. To some it means sorrow. For some, it resembles the hope of a new land that they bought themselves and their families to. And so, the National Australia Day Council has engaged in a process to ask itself, how do we do Australia Day better? How do we ensure that it’s more inclusive? How do we bring Australians together on this date? And it’s important that if we’re going to make Australia Day a more inclusive day, that we take time to think about the ancient culture in Australia as Australia’s Indigenous people that were forever affected by the, by the arrival of the Europeans. It is a day that means sorrow and hurt, but you don’t turn your back on important days. You don’t turn your back and forget and do nothing on days that means so much to so many. You do it better. You take the opportunity to learn, to reflect, to respect. And so I’m very pleased that through the leadership of Karlie and Danni of the National Australia Day Council, that we will see more and more opportunity to reflect on Indigenous Australians, their past, their history, their culture and their people, as we should on this day. It should bring us together.

When we were in Perth, Craig and Kendall and I, we had a send off from Kim Beazley, who is the Governor of Western Australia. And Kim, he likes giving a speech – those of you that remember Kim Beazley. He, more so than I do, I can assure you. And what he said about reflect, respect and celebrate is it that they must be done in that order. And he also said that they must be done in equal measure. In that no celebration of who we are as Australians should come without first reflecting on the impact that modern Australia has had on Indigenous Australians. But nor should we not respect the contribution from all, from people from all corners of the world, who have come to Australia to make this country their home, and to contribute to the vibrancy of Australian culture, through their music, their food, their traditions, in this melting pot that we call Australia. But also that we should celebrate who we are as a nation, and the nation that we’ve created. See Australia is not perfect. It never will be. It’ll only get closer to being perfect the harder we work, and the more we work together. I can’t think of a better nation than Australia, and we should be proud when we celebrate on Australia Day, who we are as a nation, having first reflected and respected those contributions. And so, thank you to the National Australia Day Council for that work and it was really touching to do hear Aunty Violet this morning give the Welcome to Country at the Reconciliation Australia Breakfast, where she reminded us that we need to continue to work on our differences, but we need to come together and celebrate together on Australia Day.

What we found with Australia Day in 2022, is that 550 local councils, sporting groups, multicultural associations, and other communities, are meeting together to bring Australians together. In fact, the Community Grants Programme run by the National Australia Day Council was so oversubscribed because of the demand or wanting to celebrate Australia Day in our communities, that the Government had to assist with some additional funding to ensure that no community missed out on those opportunities. And so we see a greater level of engagement with people right across local communities. Through Welcome to Country ceremonies, multicultural festivals, music shows and fireworks displays.

In Noosa, they’re combining a thong throwing competition with a boomerang throwing competition. I think the boomerang would probably have more chance of coming back and being used multiple times. At a mosque in Adelaide, the Afghan Cameleer Community will celebrate their historical relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Greek, Irish and Indigenous Australians will come together to share history and language in Sydney, while an Olympic and Paralympic Parade will take place in Wollongong. They’ll be Aussies saluting Aussie built cars in the Gippsland, to wooden chopping and sheaf tossing and cherry pip spitting in the quaint town of Latrobe in Tasmania. In Alice Springs, they’re having an Aussie Beach Day at the Red Centre… We’re always eager to help with the facilitation of these events. And here in Canberra, the local German Club is having the Indigenous River Bank Band come to their German Club to take to entertain their community, and the peace prayer will be conducted with the local Bhutanese community. In my home state in Western Australia, the Indian community will not only be celebrating Australia’s National Day, Australia Day, but also India’s National Datasets, shares the same date.

So our story, it’s a challenging story of Australia. It’s an uncomfortable story. It’s a story that has those highs, and those lows. And this, the date tomorrow, is an opportunity not to pretend that date doesn’t exist. Not to pretend that we should change and forget about it, but to learn to listen, to reflect, and to respect, and to celebrate. And I thank those Indigenous peoples that have taken me on a journey in relation to the importance of doing so, and particularly Alison Page who’s a Director of the National Australia Day Council, who is here today, and Robert Isaacs, who is also a Director of the Council from Western Australia. And on these matters, my very good friend who would have loved to have been here Minister Ken Wyatt as well.

But in relation to the story of Australia, we continue to build our story, we continue to make our story, and the nominees we have before us – who have all these emotions of anticipation for what will come tonight at the ceremony – they are an incredible part of the story of who we are as a nation. They are the best of us. And as I say repeatedly when I have the opportunity, the sharing of that story will make a huge difference to many people in every corner of this land. One of the things that the nominees always say to me is just how amazing this is – and some of them have said that they’ve probably eaten too much and drunk too much, because every, there’s a morning tea, breakfast and lunch for everything over these few days – and what they’ve said is that they’ve got to meet so many amazing people. It’s just so striking that each of them talked about the other amazing people that they’ve met, but don’t consider themselves amazing themselves. And so you are amazing and tonight know that you’re amazing and know that your story will make an impact on young people, whether they be in a primary school in the back of Bourke, whether they be a new Australian migrant in inner Sydney or inner Melbourne, or a young Indigenous bloke up in the Northern Territory. Your stories and by telling them will lift our nation. It will inspire Australians, and thank you for what you do.

I want to just finish by just making sure that we take time to thank those people that have supported our nominees. It was touched on before, who make extraordinary efforts in public life, for their community, for their state and for their nation. People who work really hard in relation to a charity or to make their lives better for others. They don’t do it alone. And so I know many of you have your support people here today. Many of you have your support people at home tonight watching on television in their living rooms, as we find out those winners, and which you’re all winners anyway. But can we just, before I conclude, just a round of applause and thank you to all of those support people of the nominees…

So we will continue to write our Australian story. You guys are holding the pen at the moment for the chapters that are being written. Keep doing it. Keep up the great work. Keep working together, as we come together as a nation to again reflect, to respect and to celebrate and to come together as a nation. So thank you very much.

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