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Paint the Town REaD National Conference [Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley], Bankstown Sports Club, Sydney


I want to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.It is a real pleasure to be here with you today.

It is a particular pleasure being with you in person!

Like everyone David and I spent last year adjusting – Zoom calls became the normal.

I’m sure you will all agree that last year was tough.

I want to pay credit to all of you for the way you adjusted, adapted and just got on with what needed to be done!

I have to say that in the midst of not being able to go out last year one of my favourite moments was recording a message to launch the ‘REaD and Sing with Me at Home initiative’.

I had a great time reading and singing but the real pleasure was knowing that kids and parents around the country would enjoy it and go on to participate in the initiative.

I understand that out of the more than 100 video messages David or I recorded last year the one for REaD was one of the most popular and top performers for the year.

It isn’t a competition, but I don’t think David sang to a teddy bear in his messages which may well have been the secret to our success!

More likely, it was down to you – the Paint the Town REaD village.

It is a real privilege to serve as your Patron.

You’re committed, you’re passionate and you’re determined to make a difference.

In this role, David and I are privileged to meet many outstanding Australians from different backgrounds, doing different things and helping others in different ways.

We sometimes talk about Australia’s richness of spirit.

I think the Paint the Town REaD team epitomises that spirit.

You are kind, selfless and caring. These are important traits that make our community and country so special.

Your work is extraordinary.

Paint the Town REaD is now active in 90 communities across Australia.

This includes all states as well as locations ranging from remote to urban, Indigenous to our newest Australians.

It really doesn’t matter the circumstance – Paint the Town REaD is always there to help people and to invest in our young people.

The theme of this conference, Enhancing Early Literacy by embracing our cultural diversity, goes to this point.

Reading, music and literacy are so important. I love that Paint the Town REaD is supporting and encouraging children being read to in home language.

It all goes to creating a culture that celebrates literacy and books.

I know that you’re not the kind of people who seek recognition but today, as Patron and on behalf of all Australians, I’m going to give it.

Because of you, more children are starting school ready to learn.

It is a wonderful gift you’ve given them.

As a former teacher who taught younger kids, I know that your work is not always easy.

In fact, it is hard work!

It is, though, enormously rewarding. Education opens doors and creates opportunities.

You help to unlock potential. You may never see the fruits of your labour but you should be confident that you’ve changed lives and helped put young people onto the right path.

So, as your Patron and on behalf of all Australians, thank you.

I hope you know that you are appreciated for your efforts and commitment.

Please keep it up – I hope that you are enthused and energised by this conference and go back to your community and keep up your great work.

You are making a difference.

Thank you so much.