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State Lunch in honour of His Excellency Mr Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, Government House


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal People, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

It is a pleasure to welcome you, Mr President, to Australia — a country that many Jews are proud to call home.

We welcome you in a spirit of goodwill. It is a spirit that reflects the strong ties that bind us — deep, historical ties that go back to the eight to 15 Jewish convicts aboard the First Fleet in 1788. While the Jewish passengers may have arrived as convicts, the story of the Jews in Australia is a story of contribution, perseverance and, ultimately, success.

In the early days, this manifested in a desire to come together to worship. Such is the story of the women of Sydney’s Jewish community — the Hebrew Ladies’ Bazaar — who, in 1875, sold handicrafts and gifts to raise money to build the Great Synagogue of Sydney. The Bazaar, run by Blanche Davis, raised an impressive 5,000 pounds (of the 25,000 pounds needed) for the construction of the synagogue.

Sir Saul Samuel laid the foundation stone of the Great Synagogue and remarked that the completion of that place of worship would be the means of uniting the Jews of Australia as one family, ‘burying in oblivion any differences of the past’.

Of course, the story of Jewish contributions to Australia is no more obvious than with the countless stories of success that fill this room today. Stories that are as quintessentially Australian as they are Jewish or Israeli.

This is in step with a statement made in the late 19th Century in the Hebrew Standard of Australasia that Jews in Australia were ‘in a land of freedom, only to remember that we are citizens of that land and it is our duty to make that land the best on God’s earth.’

Mr President, Linda and I had the great pleasure of visiting the State of Israel in January and meeting with you there. It was my third visit to Israel and my first as Governor-General.

You said to me in Jerusalem that you knew Australia would know how to deal with the bushfires. It was a generous remark as well as a compliment, and one that has proved to be true. I thank Israel for its kind offers of support during the bushfire crisis.

Mr President, may I return the compliment by saying that Australia admires the State of Israel for its significant achievements, especially given its relatively short history.

  • Israel has built a strong liberal democracy out of the tragedy of World War Two and the Holocaust.
  • It has brought together people from across the world, and developed one of the most technologically advanced and innovative economies the world has seen. This drive and energy is reflected in Israel’s economic relationship with Australia.
  • In 2018-19, Israeli investment in the innovation sector in Australia amounted to more than $300 million.
  • The Australia-Israel economic relationship continues to grow. More than 20 Israeli companies are now listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, making Israel the third largest source of foreign company listings.
  • Our Chief Scientist’s eyes opened wide when I told him that Israel’s Chief Scientist controlled a budget of $500 million. 

The friendship and alliances between Australia and Israel in many fields are strong and productive, and augur well for the future.

Mr President, I trust your second visit to Australia — your first as President — is an enjoyable and rewarding one.

Thank you.