Thank you so much, well done. Well thank you so much Aunty Agnes for your welcome to Ngunnawal land. We are here gathered on Ngunnawal land, and we acknowledge and honour and respect their elders past and present, just as right across Australia, where over 400 ceremonies are taking place like this on the lands of Australia’s first peoples. We honour their elders past and present, and respect their custodianship and their links to our land for time out of mind and continuing forever into the future.
I want to acknowledge, also, the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, the chairman of the National Australia Day Council, Ben Roberts-Smith, and so many great Australians here today. All of you, all of us, have helped make this country the place it is.
Today, thousands of our friends and neighbours will honour us by becoming Australian citizens.
They are volunteers – they have chosen to become Australian citizens. Many of us, most of us, arrived into the world screaming and squalling, conscripted into Australian citizenship. So, I want to honour you, the volunteers.
At 400 ceremonies across the country, 16,000 new Australians, just like you, join our 24 million strong family. You come from every corner of the world, and you are in good company.
For our ceremony here today, we have 27 people from 13 countries – Argentina, Canada, Germany, India, Iran, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Vietnam and Zambia.
Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world. Diverse and harmonious – our people come from close to 200 countries.
For more than 40,000 years, Australia was cared for by the nations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Theirs are the oldest continuing cultures on earth. They are the first Australians, and we respect and honour them on this, our national day.
Our nation is as old as humanity itself, as old as the rock carvings of the Burrup Peninsula, and the stories of the Dreamtime told by the first Australians. As old as the Magna Carta, the rule of law and the poetry of Shakespeare brought by the British settlers. As old as the mysteries of every faith, and the riches of every culture, which contributes so much to our diversity.
And yet, we are as new as the baby who becomes a citizen today in the arms of its migrant parents.
We can look at our past with great pride and with some regret, but we are not defined, let alone trapped by our history, as many other nations are.
Many nations define themselves by a common race or religion or culture. Not us. Our national identity is defined by shared political values, democracy, tempered by the rule of law. A deep belief that each of us owes the other a fair go, the best chance to realise our dreams.
And binding us together is mutual respect. We often take that for granted, but we should not. We don’t have to look far to see the consequences of its absence.
We live in the most exciting time in human history. There has never been such rapid change. Billions lifted out of poverty in a few generations, technology available to many that until recently, even the richest billionaire could not afford.
And in this era of transformation, Australia is so well positioned. In a global economy where technology has triumphed over geography, Australians are naturally global citizens. As the world tries to overcome religious and ethnic hatreds, we are a harmonious, multicultural society.
Once isolated from the economic powers in Europe and North America, we now share the same hemisphere as the Asian economic giants.
In an age where our best resource is not rocks under the ground but the people, all of us walking on top of it, we are a well-educated resourceful and innovative nation.
The tyranny of distance has been overthrown. The 21st century is set to be our greatest and you, our newest Australians, will help make it so.
Today, we celebrate Australia Day in parliaments, government houses and council chambers. We will celebrate on the beach, at the cricket, in big cities and in small towns.
We have announced our Australians of the Year, and we congratulate them again, especially weathering the tempest last night, and we congratulate those awarded Australian honours today. They have helped make our society better and we celebrate their contribution.
But, amidst the justified recognition of the good and the great, we should recognise each other.
We have done this together. We’ve have built a remarkable country. Yes, there have been great leaders in every field who have inspired us, but Australia belongs to all of us. It was built by all of us.
Through the love of your adopted country, you too will contribute to our success. Just as so many immigrants before you have done. Australia has a bright and bountiful future, and I am delighted and we are all honoured that you have chosen today to be part of it.