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Hawkesbury Citizenship Awards – Australia Day 2017

26 Jan 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen:

What an honour and a privilege it is to be one of the first to offer my heartfelt congratulations to you today, on becoming citizens of this great nation.

You have come here, from all corners of the globe, and all walks of life – the newest threads in our rich Australian tapestry.

And to the thousands of migrants who become citizens across Australia today, can I just say that in making New South Wales your new home, you have chosen the best state, in the best country in the world.

Today – as we do every year –  we come together as one country to ac knowledge and celebrate the things that we have in common – and the things that make us unique.

Today our national anthem will be sung all across this great southern land – proclaiming to everyone that we are young and free.

There is no doubt that we are free – and that is because we are a nation based on liberty, founded on freedom and among the most prosperous peoples in the history of mankind.

From today, as a new citizen, these are the freedoms that I hope will see you and your families prosper here as well.

There is no doubt we are also young – this year marks just our ‘sweet 116’ since Federation.

When the First Fleet arrived in 1788, this vast land was populated by around 750,000 indigenous inhabitants [ref][/ref] 

Today it is home to more than 24 million Australians with ancestral origins from every corner of the globe.

We are a nation of one people – but many identities.

We are the descendants of indigenous communities, of early convicts and of immigrants from countless distant shores who have made Australia their home.

It is the combination and blending of these three precious legacies – indigenous, British and immigrant – that make us unique among the nations of the world.

While today is a day of celebration, it is also a time for us to reflect on the challenges that we face here at home.

Only last month I had the opportunity to travel to our red centre, along with school-leavers from Hawkesbury, to spend a week living and working in a remote indigenous community.

Our small contribution was helping with some repair work at the local schools.

What we received in return was truly invaluable: a brief, personal insight into what life is really like for one small community in the Australian outback.

The challenges they face are many – especially when it comes to things that most of us take for granted – healthcare [ref][/ref], a good education [ref][/ref], and finding a jobs to support their families [ref][/ref].

Despite our achievements, we must never cease asking what more we can do to help our fellow Australians who are in need.

Offering a helping hand and being there for those who need it most is an integral part our national character.

As new citizens, it is up to you to join in this struggle – to make this country a better place for all of us.

As well as our indigenous heritage, we also are an immigrant nation.

Just this week, New South Wales received a new Premier – Gladys Berejiklian.

Her story is a wonderful and powerful story of immigrant success.

Gladys’s parents came to Australia from Armenia.

Her father was a boilermaker.  Her mother was a nurse.

From humble beginnings, they came here and raised three daughters.

Our Premier spoke only Armenian at home until she was 5, and when she started school, she spoke little English.

The road has not been easy.

But she has taken every opportunity and has given her all, and today she is the leader of the most populous state in Australia.

Gladys’s story is a shining example of the opportunities our nation offers.

And a story of giving back to the nation that offers us all so much.

If you work hard, embrace your new identity, success will come.

Because here in Australia we are blessed with the things humankind has craved throughout history: freedom, enduring peace, safety for our families, limitless opportunity.

In this land you really can pursue your dreams.

And what you put into this country is what you will get out of it.

No doubt you already know this, because you have chosen this land as your home.

As new Australians, you bring great vitality, great energy and great enthusiasm to the great work of forging our nation’s future.

But I want to tell you today that the mantle of our nation’s destiny rests on your shoulders.

It is up to you to embrace our nation and its culture – our heritage and our history; our past, our present and our future.

Today you too become custodians of the riches our nation offers, and today I invite you to cherish the foundations we stand on.

Because the prosperity you share in as new Australians becomes, in turn, yours to grow and share again with your fellow Australians.

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