Speech

Address By

His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC

Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

ON THE OCCASION OF

A luncheon in honour of the "Australian of the Year' finalists

Government House, Canberra

25 January 2006

  • Ms Lisa Curry-Kenny, Chairman, National Australia Day Council
  • 2006 Australians of the Year finalists
  • Doctor Fiona Wood, 2005 Australian of the Year
  • Former Australians of the Year
  • The Honourable John Cobb, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs
  • The Honourable Jim Lloyd, Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads
  • Distinguished guests
  • Ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon, and welcome everyone to Government House, and again our sincere thanks to Lisa Curry Kenny, Warren Pearson and the National Australia Day Council for their outstanding work in making Australia Day the very special celebration it has become on the national agenda.

Marlena and I are delighted to be your hosts in the lead-up to this evening’s announcement.

Most of all, we’re very proud to have with us at this lunch so many outstanding Australians.

The 2005 Australians of the Year awardees – including Doctor Fiona Wood who is with us today – have conducted themselves splendidly over the past year.

It seems to me that Fiona summed up the essence of the Australian character in these words from her speech to the Emergency Management Volunteers Summit held last April in Canberra, when she said:

“Australia is a unique blend of individuals, with the concept of ‘giving a hand’ embedded in our culture, especially in the remote and rural areas where there is an acute awareness of vulnerability. But as society evolves there is a need to maintain and enhance such a culture within all communities.”

I fully agree; all of us can and should play a part in caring: for our country, for our families and for one another. And that is why I want to thank our 2006 nominees for the work they do in their communities, the service they give, the dedication they show, the energy they bring, and the fine example they are to others.

Their outstanding contribution to Australian life has included for example:

  • Working with and advocating for the homeless;
  • Promoting Australian law, justice and history;
  • Developing cancer vaccines;
  • Extolling musicianship and fostering the love of music to Australian and international audiences;
  • Advocating for and inspiring rural communities;
  • Helping patients survive trauma and tragedy; and
  • Promoting indigenous history and culture through art.

The desire to be involved underpins the philosophy of the Australian of the Year Awards. And it’s well expressed in the astute words of one commentator who noted:

Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous army of the world’s ills…..against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each can work to change a small portion of events and, in the total of all these acts will be written the history (that matters).

What I see woven through the contributions of all who give voluntarily is the living concept of service above self; a strong sense of duty; and the linkage of two wonderful Australian characteristics; “having a go” (pitching in without counting the cost) and belief in “a fair go” (justice and fair play).

Ladies and gentlemen. Marlena and I greatly admire what our entrants have achieved in reaching the finalist stage of the 2006 Australian of the Year awards.

For some, you have given a lifetime of service, others are well along the road, and our young Australians, who have already achieved so much, know they have plenty in reserve.

To all of you I extend my encouragement and thanks for your magnificent service and contribution to our country.

So every good wish for this evening.

And, Marlena and I hope that Australia Day tomorrow is a memorable one for you, and that the year ahead is both rewarding and fulfilling.

Thank you.