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Tuesday, 26 January 2021
Government House Sydney
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC

Bujari Gamarruwa Diyn Babana Gamarada Gadigal Ngura

‘G’day’ in the language of the Gadigal people, the Traditional Owners of the land on which Government House stands. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and to all Indigenous Elders across Australia.

From wherever you are joining us today, thank you for being part of this special event.

Last year, this ceremony took place on Sydney Harbour, a few hundred metres from here, on board the Navy’s flag ship, HMAS Canberra.  That day had its moments of sadness and reflection, after bushfires had wreaked havoc on lives and property over the summer. Volunteers from the Rural Fire Service were on board for a brief reprieve, as we thanked them for months of gruelling service.   We all hoped for a better year.

It was not to be so.  From early March 2020, the very different and more insidious challenge of the pandemic changed the way we socialise, the way we work, in fact, the way we go about our everyday lives.

These new circumstances have given us cause to reflect.

It has been a difficult time. The isolation imposed on us, nationally, within our states and even within our own homes has caused us to look inwards.  But with that has come a revitalised sense of “Us”.

Not being able to venture abroad, we have seen the natural beauty of our country with fresh eyes; we have supported our smaller communities, we have respected the quietness of our national celebrations, including ANZAC Day. 

We now have a greater awareness and appreciation of our frontline workers. To those here with us today and those watching - thank you! Your commitment, your hard work, and the sacrifices you have made in your own lives, every day, have kept us going and kept us healthy and safe.

Over these past months I have met with many members of our community, virtually and in ‘real life’: mother’s groups, Indigenous leaders, scientists, doctors, charity organisations, young people, schoolteachers, refugee groups, and so many more. 

The compassion, concern and ingenuity shown by the community during this time gives me great optimism for our country, and for our future.

Nearly 30% of Australians were born overseas and more than 300 languages are spoken in our country, 60 of which are the ancient languages of the original Australians. 

Today, citizenship ceremonies are being held all around the country. We warmly welcome our new citizens as part of the 25 and a half million people who call Australia home. You add to our country’s richness and diversity, complementing a living history dating back some 65,000 years.

To all of us who call Australia home: the resilience and adaptability we have shown throughout the pandemic have become building blocks in our national psyche, equipping us to navigate new challenges and embrace the fresh opportunities that lie ahead.

Since last year’s sparkling day on the harbour, what have we learned?  How will we build on our deeper sense of community? What steps do we take to make sure no one is left behind? How do we use the building blocks of resilience and adaptability?

Our responses to these kinds of questions will determine the Australia of the decades to come. Together, we will answer these questions and shape our destiny, reflecting on our actions, respecting our diversity, and celebrating, as we do today, the Australia we are proud of and the Australia we know we can become.

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