Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Speech: City of Whittlesea Citizenship Ceremony

January 26, 2021

I’d like to start my remarks by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we have come together on, and to pay my respects to elders, past, present and emerging.
This land always will be Aboriginal land.
That we share it with the world’s oldest continuous culture is a wonderful thing: it’s unique and precious.
Modern Australia combines this ancient and compelling history with the stories of migrants that make up our multicultural society today.
Including your stories.
I’m proud to be an Australian, and both proud and humbled that you have all chosen to become Australian citizens.
This is your day.
The end of a long journey towards citizenship, the start of full participation in our democracy.
From the end of this ceremony, I will be formally working for you!
Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural nation because we work at it. To make sure that everyone is valued, and that everyone belongs.
In the City of Whittlesea we see this everyday. People from all over the world, living and working together, sharing perspectives, culture, food and experiences- enriching us all.
As Labor’s spokesperson on multicultural affairs I’m excited by the possibilities of our future.
And by your role in it: this afternoon, we welcome 60 new citizens and invite those 60 voices to have an equal say in our future with the rest of us.
To share your thoughts on what it means to be Australian, and how we can make this country even better.
I said earlier that I’m proud to be Australian.
We have much to be proud of: our egalitarian spirit, the richness of our diversity, our extraordinary natural environment and the strength of our democratic institutions.
In many ways, we’ve led the world - such as through granting women the vote, providing the first age pension, amongst many other achievements.
But to fully celebrate these achievements we must also also look to those aspects of our past that challenge us.
Today should be a day for reflection on the past, and resolution for the future.
Today is a difficult day for many First Peoples.
We can’t pretend otherwise.
Instead we should listen, and commit ourselves to truth.
And the truth is - we can be better.
By responding to the generous invitation that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and walking with First Nations people to a shared future including a Voice in the Constitution.
By ensuring, too, that the question we seek to answer when we think about the future isn’t ‘what it means to be Australian’
But rather, ‘what can it mean’.
Our identity belongs to us all, including you.
It’s not frozen in time, it’s constantly evolving.
I think this is exciting.
Our diversity is our greatest strength.
Our challenge is to foster this - to make sure that everyone belongs, and that everyone gets a say.
We are a strong and robust democracy, and we get stronger through open, inclusive and respectful debate on all the things that matter to our country and its future.
I can’t wait to hear your stories, and your thoughts on what citizenship means to you.
Please know, this means the world to me - and that it matters, to us all.
I hope today is a special day for each and every one of you.