Australia Day Speech

Below is my speech from the Australia Day Ceremony in South Perth.

“His Excellency Dr Ken Michael, Governor of Western Australia, and Mrs Michael.

Mayor James Best, Mayor of the City of South Perth, and Mrs Best.

The Hon Simon O’Brien, representing the Premier, and Mrs O’Brien.

My parliamentary colleagues — both State and federal — distinguished guests, fellow Australians.

I would like to thank the city of South Perth for, once again, for giving me the opportunity to deliver an Australia Day message.

There are many reasons why I am proud to be an Australian.

Firstly, I believe we live in one of the great democracies of the world.

This is a country where we can choose where we want to live and we can move about our communities with total freedom.

We enjoy a freedom of speech that, unfortunately, is not available to those living in many other parts of the world.

For example, during the past few weeks we have seen commentary on many aspects of this 2010 Australia Day celebration.

Much of this has been around the Australian Flag – a symbol of our nation that I, and many others like me, feel strongly about.

I have a great respect for the Australian flag and for all that it represents and I, personally, would not like to see it changed.

Under this flag, which we saw unfurled earlier in the ceremony, brave and courageous Australians served in two world wars and other conflicts overseas.

Under this flag, Australians have represented our country in sporting events around the world, to the most amazing levels of success. As a journalist I was privileged to see our flag raised many times at Olympic Games.

Some concern has also been raised about young Australians behaving badly while having the national flag draped around them. While I can understand that concern, I believe many of our young people are looking for a sense of belonging, of mateship and pride.

I prefer to see these young people as showing patriotism in their own special way.

I am very pleased that Mrs Dorothy Winmar and Phil Bartlett have joined us once again this year.

I notice that some prominent Nnoongar leaders have said they are reticent to celebrate Australia Day because they feel it was the day their land was invaded by white settlers.

Despite that understandable pain, I encourage indigenous people to treat Australia Day as more of a coming together of two cultures.

We should remember that indigenous people fought alongside white Australians in two world wars, as Australians we worked together, played sport together and in many cases became lifelong friends.

I am particularly heartened by the words of Nnoongar elder Robert Isaacs, a person I greatly respect, who said: “This is a day for all Australians to come together, work in harmony and sort out some of our differences”.

In 2010, like Robert Isaacs, I honestly believe that as a nation we are moving in the right direction.

Young people, from diverse nationalities and backgrounds, are soaring to great heights in so many fields of endeavour. We must continue to remind our young people what can be achieved by hard work and commitment.

There is no doubt that the past 20 years have seen Australia become a far more multi-cultural nation than previous generations could ever have imagined.

People from all corners of the globe are choosing to live in this wonderful country. We welcome them with open arms – just as we do for the new citizens here with us this morning.

I congratulate our new citizens and all I ask in return is that you take this opportunity with both hands, embrace it, and become the best you can for our local community and for the nation you have made such a long journey to become a part of.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the citizenship award recipients; I would like to congratulate the City of South Perth and its staff on today’s ceremony and, finally, a thank-you to the hard working volunteers from our three rotary clubs for their efforts.

I wish you all a Happy Australia Day.”

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