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Autumn Investiture ceremonies, Government House

[Autumn Investiture ceremonies were held at Government House from 2-6 May]

Introductory remarks

This is Ngunnawal Country. Today we are all meeting together on this Ngunnawal Country. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Elders.

Welcome to Government House for what is a very important day in the life of our award recipients and their families and, just as importantly, our nation. Today we recognise those who have made a significant contribution in the advancement of our country and the wellbeing of our communities.

You may be feeling a bit nervous but, please, this is an Australian Government House, so relax, breath, smile and applaud. We want you to enjoy yourselves and remember this day for many years to come. Because it is a special day for Australia and should be a special and memorable one for all of you.

Today we are going to acknowledge a number of people from a wide variety of professional fields and endeavours both at the professional and community level. There’s a remarkable breadth of achievement and diversity present.

There are also some common characteristics, not least that each of the Order of Australia recipients is here because someone nominated them for recognition.

Our Honours and Awards system has a very important and unique characteristic in that it is a bottom-up system. It is not a system where authorities in Canberra reach down into the community and say someone down there has been doing a very good job, we’re going to give them a medal.

People who walk through this door, particularly those who are civilians, are being recognised by their peers. Nominated by their peers because their good work has been seen, noted and considered worthy of recognition.

I’m going to give you some homework later, so remember that point.

To the families here today – and I know Paul [Singer, Official Secretary to the Governor-General] mentioned this to you in his introductory remarks – thank you for what you do. Not one of the recipients here today would be here if not for the support of family, in what they do both at work and in the community. We are extremely grateful for your contribution.

Today, we have seen the span of what Australians do for their own society and internationally. It is uplifting.

Linda and I travel this country almost every week of the year. Every time we arrive home I say, ‘I don’t need a university study to tell me how good Australians are. I see it every day of the year.’ This ceremony brings it all together.

Enjoy the occasion, reflect on the achievements we are about to hear and be grateful that these fine Australians have been nominated by their peers.


Closing remarks

We’ve acknowledged each recipient individually. It would be appropriate to do so as a group. Well done and congratulations.

Now, to your homework!

As I said before the ceremony, what we see here is a microcosm of our community. There’s a huge breadth of endeavour and achievement.

There are some common characteristics – values of selflessness and service for sure – but also that recipients in the Order of Australia were here today because someone took the time to nominate them.

I’d go back to the point I made about it being a bottom-up system. It depends on your nominations.

You know the people in your community, your profession, your business area who are performing at a level that should be recognised nationally under our awards system. I need you to nominate them. Without nominations, we simply cannot acknowledge or see the work that is occurring in our community.

My desire is to mark your homework by presenting medals to people as they walk through that door in 12 months’ time! So, please, go back to your communities and nominate someone.

The diversity in our awards system is still not where it should be. The number of women, thankfully, has risen quite considerably and continues to do so and I’m pleased with that, but we need more. We are lacking in Indigenous representation and those coming from a multicultural background.

Work is underway to increase the participation, but we also need you in your community to be keeping an eye out and nominating people you think merit acknowledgment under our awards system. There’s your homework and, as I say, I’m looking forward to marking it.

Linda and I look forward now to catching up with you all and the chance to delight in the achievements of your loved one.

Congratulations, all.