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Australia Day 2023 National Address

The Governor-General’s Australia Day National Address was broadcast on the ABC at 6:55 pm AEDT on 26 January.

I begin this year’s Australia Day address by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land I’m currently on – Ngunnawal country. 

Dhawura nguna. Dhawura Ngunnawal. 
Yanggu ngalawiri dhuimanyin 
Ngunnawalwari dhawurawari
Nginggada Dindi. Wanggiralijinying.

I have been privileged to learn from Ngunnawal people and have them share their language.

Australia is stronger because of the ongoing history, traditions and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. 

Over three difficult years for all Australians I have had the opportunity to consider further what it means to be Australian.

Of course, there isn’t a single, simple answer. My experience is different from yours and yours will be different from your neighbour’s. 

Mine is informed by the people Linda and I have had the privilege of meeting. They and their experiences are as diverse as our country is big. 

Our conversations tell me that Australia is not a finished product, but that we are a good people.

Yes, there are many challenges and, yes, we don’t agree on everything. 

We do however work hard, look out for each other and are not afraid to take on the big challenges.

We are a country to be proud of. 

And that is worth celebrating.

Last year, just months before her passing, I had the opportunity to introduce the four 2022 Australians of the Year to Queen Elizabeth The Second. 

The same characteristics and values that Her Majesty exemplified were evident in Dylan, Val, Shanna and Daniel. Indeed, they are evident across our community — a commitment to others, tireless service, kindness and compassion. 

Across her remarkable reign, The Queen set an example of servant leadership — of putting others before self and bringing people together. 

Again, these characteristics are reflected in our diverse and strong communities.

We are stronger when we listen and learn from each other and recognise and acknowledge our different experiences and different cultures.
I learnt from the Yolngu in East Arnhem Land the importance of community — putting others before self.

I learnt from the many communities across Australia impacted by flood, fire and drought how important neighbours are when the chips are down.

I learnt from the athletes at the Special Olympics the joy that can come from participating and achieving a personal goal — and how to really celebrate.

I continue to learn from each Australian Honours List about the remarkable breadth of service and the incredible range of backgrounds of the people in our community who go above and beyond, and who inspire.

Our individual identities and stories weave together into a modern, diverse nation of people.

That is worth celebrating. 

Australia Day affords us the opportunity:

•    to reflect on 60,000 years of continuous culture woven into and essential to the fabric of modern, multicultural Australia and how we address our colonial history

•    to respect our different experiences and perspectives. We are the sum of millions of individual stories.

•    to celebrate. 

Too often we are our own harshest critics. The default, especially online, can be to focus on what divides, on tearing others down, on shouting at rather than listening to each other. 

Celebrating doesn’t mean universal agreement or pretending that everything is perfect. It means:

•    celebrating the good in our past. Our past isn’t perfect, but it is informing who we are and who we aspire to be.

•    celebrating our present. We continue to take on big challenges and there is much to be proud of. 

•    most of all, celebrating our future and our potential.

Australia is not a finished product, but we are a good people. 

We will continue to make big, historic decisions about who we are and what Australia will look like going forward.

We will also continue to shape that future through our day-to-day actions — how we look after each other and contribute to our community.

We are a country to be proud of. 

And that is worth celebrating.