Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Speech to City of Whittlesea Australia Day ceremony

January 26, 2019

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are gathered on, and pay my respects to the elders of the Wurundjeri people, past and present. Where we are today has always been, and will always be, aboriginal land.

It’s a great privilege to share in today with you, our soon-to-be newest Australians and those close to you. While being part of citizenship ceremonies is my favourite part of my job I am very conscious that this is your day - it belongs to you, not me or any of the dignitaries on this stage. I’m sure our Australia Day Ambassador Hass Dellal; my friends and state colleagues Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Danielle Green; Mayor Cox, councillors Kozmevski, Desiato, Sterjova and Monteleone and our CEO Simon Overland, agree with me on this point. That so many are here shows the significance of your day to us.

Today completes a long journey, of years or perhaps even decades. It brings together your past, with our shared future. It does not mean turning your back on where you’ve come from - in fact, the opposite should be the case. The culture and experience you bring with you enriches all of us:, please, remain proud of it, and share it. It is embracing diversity that makes the City of Whittlesea such a great place.

I hope that this ceremony is meaningful to all of you, and that it presents a sound foundation for your full involvement in Australian life as a citizen. With all the rights and responsibilities that come with this. I know that this is not a step anyone takes lightly, but it is important to reflect on what it means. From now, the shape of our future is officially your business.

Our democracy is now in your hands as much as anyone else’s. Please think of the contributions you can make - including, seeking elected office and perhaps sitting on this stage.

I’m looking forward to singing the national anthem with you, and especially its second verse: for those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share.

It’s this spirit of generosity and optimism which is our best side, as Australians. A recognition too that, all of us who are not indigenous are parts of a culture that is always evolving, and getting stronger through this.

For me, the form of the pledge you are about to take makes a similar point. It’s to ‘Australia and it’s people’.

Australia, and it’s people. This is further recognition that what it means to be Australian isn’t something set in stone, but is shaped by Australians, for Australians - including, especially, you.

Today, the 26th of January is of course Australia Day - Republic day, too, for many. You will probably be aware there has been much debate about this in the media in recent days.

For some Australians, particularly many First Nations Australians, today is a difficult day. I think we are big enough as a nation to recognise this and to talk about it.

I’m a proud Australian, and so proud that this country - indeed, this community, brings together a vibrant multiculturalism with the world’s oldest continuing culture.

This is unique, and it is precious. We should not take this for granted. Let us celebrate this, through sharing stories and experiences.

Let us listen closely to each other as we discuss what it means to be Australian, and let us pay special attention to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians so that we can all celebrate what’s great about our country and what it means to be Australian, together.

I’m an optimist.

And this is a great moment of hope, the commitment you are making. I believe that by bringing together your stories with those of the First Australians, we can find the way to make our national day truly a day for everyone, walking together into the future.

Can I say a couple of things in conclusion?

Firstly, an event such as today does not just happen. I want to recognise the great work of the staff of the City of Whittlesea and the Australian Electoral Commission. You do important work, and you do it so well. Thank you.

And lastly, to you, the newest Australians, I say thank you so much for making the decision you’ve made. I know that for some this may have been a hard choice, and for others it may follow having had no choice but to leave the country of your birth.

But for all of you, you honour us in choosing not only to come here, but to fully participate in the life of our country. I’d like to encourage you, as citizens to do just that - to incorporate the threads of your story into the Australian story, making it so much richer and to be an active citizens, ensuring your voice is heard on the things which matter to you, about your community and your country.

For those who live in the Scullin electorate, I look forward from today to working for you, and I hope to earn your trust.

Congratulations! And welcome.