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Australia Day 2020 National Address

This Australia Day we are in the midst of an unprecedented bushfire season.

  • We have lost family members, friends and colleagues.
  • Many communities and people have suffered terrible losses.
  • Our natural environment and habitats have been ravaged.
  • We have begun a long recovery period.


Like many Australians, Linda and I were shocked at the scale, intensity and speed at which the fires struck.

For many people, the holiday period became a time of crisis, anxiety and sadness.

  • lives lost
  • homes and property destroyed
  • bushland gone
  • stock and wildlife killed and injured
  • entire communities evacuated

The emotional trauma — often hidden — which has been a result of these experiences can have a negative impact for years to come.

We all grieve for those doing it tough, especially those who have lost loved ones.

But, as Linda and I have heard repeatedly during visits to fire-affected communities, there have been great acts of charity and the demonstration of strong community spirit.

We have shown clearly our character and values.

Our very human response to this tragedy is a reminder of our ability to overcome adversity and our willingness to help one another.

Adversity not only builds character, it reveals it.

Over several months we have witnessed the actions of ordinary, everyday Australians in bushfire affected areas:

  • selflessly staring down impending danger and helping a mate in need, or indeed a stranger
  • opening their hearts and homes to people fleeing the effects of walls of flame

Our firefighters, our police and our emergency services personnel (many of whom are volunteers) who:

  • hour after hour, day after day — working in dangerous conditions and utterly exhausted — to help and save others

The actions of those away from the firegrounds — employers releasing volunteers from work, or people donating money and delivering supplies.

And the Australian Defence Force — working hand-in-hand with their fellow Australians to bring comfort and reassurance.

The overwhelming support, selflessness and generosity shown by Australians to people whose lives have been thrown into turmoil, highlights our underlying strength as a nation.

On Australia Day, as so many continue to face the most difficult of circumstances, we should recognise and value this strength, and be proud of it.

We are at our best when we come together.

These selfless feats have been elevated into our national psyche because of the fires, but this goodness — this richness of spirit — happens all around the country on any given day.

Since becoming Governor-General, Linda and I have met many people working together to make Australians’ lives and our nation’s prospects better.

We should be proud of who we are.

The coming months and years will be difficult ones for people affected by the fires.

The cold, harsh reality of the devastation and loss can manifest itself in different ways for different people.

I encourage all Australians to keep an eye out for each other.

Ask anyone who has been through a fire, a flood, a drought — any traumatic event — and they will tell you the simple act of someone asking ‘Are you okay?’ can make an enormous difference.

Accepting support from the many organisations that can assist you is the next step.

So, on this Australia Day as we celebrate ‘who we are’, let’s keep those impacted by the fires foremost in our decisions and actions and continue to look out for each other.