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.
Thank you to the National Australia Day Council Board for what is a huge week.
A special thank you to our chair, Danni, who has been in the seat since 2017.
And to Stepan, Richard, Alison, Jane, Robert, Nikki, Bao and Denita.
And to CEO, Karlie, whose organisation and professionalism never ceases to amaze me.
Along with Karen, Vern, Nalini, Michelle, Grace, Lyndall, Nicole, Imogen, Georgie, Katia and Ella.
And our wonderful sponsors who join our vision in recognising remarkable Australians.
Australians such as Brian Parry AFSM, who was our first local hero in 2003.
Brian continued his incredible service in the fire services well beyond winning the Award.
So tonight is just the beginning.
Welcome to Canberra
I’d like to welcome you all to Canberra.
It truly is a glorious spot to welcome our 2023 nominees.
A place where stories are told and our history is kept alive.
Just around the corner, we have Queen Elizabeth II’s iconic car for her 1950’s Australian royal tour.
A Daimler DE 36hp with the most modern of air conditioning and luxuries of 1954.
We thought it was important your transport was just as memorable.
So I am pleased to announce that your mini-bus also has air conditioning.
I look forward to getting to know each of you better, after meeting many of you at the state and territory events.
I must admit promises of a karaoke night out was promised to some of the Queensland delegation.
I would not be a good politician if I did not keep my promise.
To pick on just a few of you.
I am thinking Craig Foster AM, former Socceroo, could do a brilliant rendition of Ricky Martin’s ‘Cup of Life’.
Christine Robertson, Co-founder of Lost Pets of South Australia and creator of the Chipblitz program, could help me out with a Tom Jones number, ‘What’s New Pussycat’.
And our Doctors in the room.
Tasmanian Dr Frances Donaldson.
ACT’s Dr Shamaruh Mirza. Professor Tom Calma AO.
Victorians, Professor Frank Oberklaid AM and Dr Angraj Khillan.
WA’s Professor Samar Aoun.
Have apparently planned to do a joint number with the incredibly catchy 90’s hit by Aqua, ‘Doctor Jones’.
Those with music in their veins, such as Queenslander William Barton and ACT’s Kofi Owusu-Ansah, might just blew us out of the water.
Before anyone gets too worried for tonight.
Rest assured, Canberra’s nightlife is already over by this time.
Tips for the week
I’d like to share some tips for the week.
First, be proud.
You have all earned your place to be here today.
While the grand lawns of Government house and the Prime Minister’s Lodge might be a little different to your average day, you will be in the most welcoming company this week.
I can vouch for the Governor-General and the Prime Minister that they are so excited and humbled to meet you all.
Second, you will all walk away with a greater platform to continue your work.
I know we have 32 nominees, but just 4 national winners.
So for those who don’t win, can I say, as Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, it is not all about who has the top job.
Because regardless of who might be standing up on Thursday evening.
You will connect and learn from each other.
You will grow even more from this experience.
And I have no doubt your achievements will be celebrated in places such as where we are tonight.
Third, have some fun.
Look around the room.
This has to be one of the most humbling rooms I have been in.
The best of Australia’s humanity is right here.
So I look forward to feeling out of place all week.
Lastly, smile bright in every photo, introduce yourself to as many people, and say yes to every opportunity.
This week will be a pinch me moment you will never forget.