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Australia Day 2021 address

Australia Day is an opportunity to reflect, respect and celebrate. 


In 2021, Australia will be confronted with a number of challenges: recovering from bushfires, drought and flood; overcoming the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic; and continuing our reconciliation journey, to name a few.

My life’s experiences working with Australians gives me enormous confidence in our capacity to adapt to situations and to apply our well-known ability to work through difficult problems and situations. It is why I am an optimist about our country’s future.

So, if Australia Day is an opportunity to take stock and to reflect, respect and celebrate, what have I seen that supports my optimism? Why do I celebrate and why should we celebrate?

I am optimistic and celebrate because I have spent a year talking with Australians – in person and virtually – in their communities and workplaces. Australians from all walks of life and from all parts of the country.

From Mavis in Galiwinku seeking a voice for her people to Michael on Kangaroo Island leading the rebuilding of a community or to schoolchildren learning online from home during the pandemic, Linda and I have listened to people’s stories – what they’ve been through, what they are dealing with or confronting, and what their hopes and aspirations are for the future.

We have spent time saying ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ – to people who volunteer and help others, to those who serve our community, and to people who never put up their hand to be recognised – people who consider what they do to be ‘ordinary’. They may feel ‘ordinary’ and wish to remain anonymous but together they are extraordinary.

If you stop and reflect on the countless examples in your own community, you will know who they are. The sum of these contributions speaks to our greatest strength as a nation – our people.

We have witnessed countless examples of people looking out for each other. Sometimes it is people many of us see every day – our teachers, our nurses, the friendly smile at the local shop. Other times it is individuals who, in a single moment without thought, have put themselves at risk to help someone else.

Individually the impact of each action is significant – it might change someone’s day or life. Collectively these actions speak to who we are and who we can be.

There will continue to be difficult days ahead – we know that– but we have every reason to be optimistic about our future because at our core we are a good people.

There is incredible strength. That should give us enormous confidence for the future. And that should make us enormously proud to be Australian. 

Regardless of how you spend a COVID-constrained Australia Day – and I acknowledge those who will continue to work in the community on the frontline, in our hospitals and testing facilities, in police and fire stations or on duty in the Australian Defence Force – let’s celebrate who we are and what is possible for our future.

From Linda and me, happy Australia Day.