Thank you Walangari Karntawarra and Diramu Aboriginal Dance and Didgeridoo for your Acknowledgement of Country. As I mentioned the Australia Day theme this year is “Reflect. Respect. Celebrate”.
Well, what a time we have been having of it. This time last year we were living through an overwhelming bushfire season, with our city blanketed in smoke. Like many of you I was showering with a bucket in my recess, to collect water for the garden. Given the pandemic and the recent rains it seems surreal.
We reflect on a year of change and upheaval and one that has been a challenge for our community economically, socially and in every conceivable way. We have made changes to the way we live and in ways we never could have contemplated a year ago. But there has also been many discoveries, opportunities and triumphs.
We have seen the importance of our health care system and front line staff in hospitals more than ever before. We’ve seen the challenges in education and teachers step up under trying circumstances. Businesses have innovated.
We’ve seen our leaders take fast and decisive action to keep us safe. And we’ve seen every day Australians – neighbours, friends, family and colleagues make sacrifices to keep us safe.
We’ve sacrificed parties, barbeques, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and many other celebrations. I have dialled into too many Zoom funerals. BUT We’ve pulled together as a community and demonstrated resilience like never before. I have seen that locally right here every day over the past year. I am deeply touched by our caring community.
For example, community groups supporting their members by switching to online activities to keep in touch. Who knew you could do a choir rehearsal via Zoom. At WCC where we continued to deliver meals on wheels and support elderly with home services. Remember toilet paper GATE? Yes meals on wheels adapted delivering toilet paper, with hand sanitiser as essential items.
Many of us have spent a lot of time apart from loved ones this year. Its been a year since I have seen my elderly Mother in Perth. I have been constantly in awe however of her spirit, and the spirit of so many resilient Australians who have said “We are all in this together, and we have to do, what we need to do, to keep everyone safe.”
It hasn’t been about personal interest, its been about the greater good of the broader community and I have seen this time and time again.
The element of respect has been highlighted in many different ways this past year. We have respected and taken the advice of medical professionals, we’ve respected the rules, even when we didn’t want to and they inconvenienced us, we’ve respected personal space and respected each person’s response to extraordinary circumstances and acceptance to our ‘new world’.
And this respect has evolved over time in our community – we respect that, regardless of where we come from, the faith we follow or the language we grew up speaking, and we all have a contribution to make to help bring us through this past year and beyond.
And now to celebrate, perhaps the most important one after the year we’ve had! We celebrate our nation’s place in the world – a proud, ancient, multicultural nation built on shared values that allow us to enjoy the freedom, democracy and opportunities that other nations aspire to.
And we celebrate our successes over the past year and realise how fortunate we are to be in Australia, considering how other countries continue to struggle with the virus. We have seen other nations falter and splinter, but we remain strong. Indeed there have been challenges, but there is much to celebrate. During the past year, I can think of no other place I would rather be.
So, today as we welcome our newest formal Australians, I ask you to reflect. What was it that brought you to this Country, what has it given you and what can you give back? There are so many opportunities contribute, volunteering, there are even local government elections coming up in September. Four of our current councillors were born overseas.
I encourage you to Respect each other, no matter your background, try to see things for other perspective. Welcome alternate points of view, different ways of doing things. Open yourselves up and you might just find better ways to thinking about things, or simply living.
Finally Celebrate. There is so much to celebrate. Being made an Australian today is one! Celebrate that we are able to gather in this way today, that we are in a country that is relatively virus free.
My challenge to you all today, and this is not only the newest Australians, is to make the very best of the opportunity that this wonderful country gives you. Don’t waste it.
Today of all days
“Reflect. Respect. Celebrate”.