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Mr. Mark Coure MP, Mr. David Coleman MP, Mr. Emanuel Comino AM, Cr George Katsabaris, Cr Nicholas Aroney, Cr Nathaniel Smith, Cr Nick Katris, Cr Kathryn Landsberry, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to the Kogarah City Council Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony.
Firstly, on behalf of Kogarah City Council, I would like to formally acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we stand, the Dharawal people, and pay our respects to their elders past and present.
Becoming a citizen is a significant milestone both in your life and in the life of this nation. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate you upon your citizenship and reflect on the national character of the homeland that we all now share.
There is a passage from the ancient book of Ecclesiastes that states:
Listening to those words, I am reminded of Australia.
Ladies and gentlemen, Australia is a nation that understands better than anyone that there’s a time and a place for every season under the sun. We live out the best of both worlds and our national story has been a project of reconciliation – of reconciling seemingly contradictory opposites.
At just 225 years of age, Australia is a young country which owes its success to an ancient heritage. Our legacy stretches back through both our indigenous past and the greatest Western traditions of mankind.
Thus Australia exemplifies “the best of both worlds” to the whole world.
For starters, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we take our country seriously. As a country of larrikins, we know when to have a laugh, but as a people of integrity and respect, we know when to treat things with the utmost seriousness.
We are a country that’s build on the back of rural agriculture, but the world-class cities of our glistening coasts attract visitors and prospective migrants from all corners of the globe.
We inhabit a landmass known for its sprawling vastness – ‘a land of sweeping plains and ragged mountain ranges’ – but it’s locality that’s our true source of pride; we do the small town and leafy suburb better than anywhere in the world.
The natural environment of Australia is savage and pitiless; we’ve endured more than our fair share of floods, bushfires and cyclones, but Mother Nature has also gifted us with incredible beauty and bountiful supply. As a country at the mercy of the ebb and flow of these natural conditions we know ‘when to plant and when to uproot’.
We are a people who know that ‘wealth is for toil’ and that you have to work hard for what you get in life, but we’ve also been blessed with ‘The Lucky Country’ and new waves of migrants have in turn benefited from the Gold rush, business opportunities and miles and miles of space.
As Australians, We are well-known for taking the mickey out of each other but we’ve also pioneered our national story in looking after our mates ‘til the end – from the ANZAC larrikins, to bushfire appeals and the kindness of strangers who are always ready to lend a hand when we are in trouble because we are fellow Australians.
We are people with a sense of duty and honour in the spirit of the ANZACs: we know when to fight for our country, but we are a magnanimous people with a big heart and we know when to heal the divides that lie between us and our enemies.
Australia truly pulls together in calamity and tragedy. The old adage ‘she’ll be right, mate’ is our gold standard of Australian stoicism and we ensure that ‘she’ll be right’ with our own efforts and charity. As a realistic people, we know when to call it a day, but we are tenacious little buggers – we know when and how to fight to the end, and we always fight for our brothers. The heart of our nation is a diamond in the rough and it’s refined in times of adversity.
We are imaginative, we are laidback, but we are ‘steady as she goes’ – if it ain’t broke, we don’t fix it, and we prize the foundations upon which we stand. We know that even as new Australians, we didn’t spring up out of a vacuum. We are a settlement. We are a colourful collection of migrants. We are an inheritance. And in all these years, we’ve become a homeland in our own right.
We love our heritage as a migrant country, as a Commonwealth country that governs in the traditions of the Westminster system, and as a country with an ancient Indigenous identity. It has been a long road to reconcile all of these identities into a unified nation; to look upon ourselves as a nation together with understanding and pride. From the Australian Federation in 1901, to the Apology to the Stolen Generation in 2007, to your citizenship ceremony today, that journey is reaching new heights.
It is now my honour to welcome you officially into that great homeland and thank you for the part that you have and will play in fulfilling our national story.