Thursday, 6 February 2020

Mail Newspaper Column - freedom and opportunity - 4 Feb 2020

Every Australia Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our history and our future as we begin the new year.

This year is the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of the eastern coast of our nation.

Eighteen years later when Captain Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay, he was determined to establish more than just a settlement for convicts. He insisted there be no slavery, and envisioned a community developing on the democratic principles that were taking hold at the time.

Of course, no nation’s history is without blemish. Cook’s arrival and Phillip’s settlement changed the lives of our indigenous peoples, who had been here 40,000 years, forever.

The 250th anniversary of Cook’s landing is an opportunity not just for historical reflection but also a time to acknowledge the foundations of the past and to advance reconciliation into the future.

What cannot be doubted is that both Cook and Phillip would be amazed at all we have become.

And that’s why Australia Day is so much more than just the celebration of a date, it really is a celebration of the nation of freedom and opportunity we are.

That’s why every Australia Day at a local and national level we thank and recognise volunteers with awards, as well as welcome new citizens at ceremonies across our continent.

We acknowledge that in our free democratic nation, our strength and success is the result not just of our institutions but also our values. Our community and our nation has been built and sustained by selfless volunteers who give their time to help others. We’ve again seen it clearly in the wake of the recent catastrophic fires. But it is there every day in every community in so many ways. In a democracy, governments and community work in partnership.

This year 33 people in the Yarra Ranges took the oath or affirmation to join us as Australian citizens. In doing so they joined more than 27,000 others across our nation who become Australians at ceremonies large and small. Together they join more than five million migrants who have taken the same step.

Australia has become a home to people from every corner of the globe. Our new citizens add to the fabric of our nation and to its future.

That is why Australia Day is a time to reflect on all that we have become as well as all that we can be in the future.

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