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Sunday, 16 October 2022
Sydney Olympic Park
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret beazley AC KC

Tonight, as we celebrate on the land of the Wangal peoples:  As-salamu alaykum.[1]

I pay my respects to the traditional custodians of this land and the many lands across New South Wales.

Australia is the most unique country in the world with a history, and with customs, traditions and knowledge which extends back to the dreamtime of over some 65,000 years. Over those tens of hundreds of years, there have been many visitors to these shores.  In the centuries before European settlement, the Macassans from Indonesia were frequent visitors and their influence is still found in ancestry, art, culture and traditions in the North of Australia.  There are suggestions of earlier discoveries by medieval Arab and Persian seafarers as far back as the 9th century.   

European settlement brought some 1000 people to the Eastern shores of our country which, at that time, was already settled by 200 traditional nations with an estimated population of one million Indigenous peoples. From its very early days, the settlement, although significantly English and Irish, and mostly convict, was what in today’s lexicon we call multicultural, including peoples from the Muslim world, with sailors and labourers and the occasional convict making Australia a new home. Records of free settlers, with presumed Muslim names are found as early as 1796 in the Norfolk Island Victualling Book and in other colonial records, especially in Tasmania.  There is then the well documented history of the cameleers, mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan who commenced arriving from 1838.  The mosque built by the cameleers in Broken Hill in 1887 remains today as a place of Muslim observance. 

The Australia I grew up in was a country of some 10 million people, mostly Anglo Saxon but beginning to accommodate the major post war immigration from Europe and the slightly later immigration from Eastern Europe.  Australia sat reasonably contented at the bottom of the world map.  We had and continue to have a fine ANZAC tradition.  We played spectacularly good cricket.  We picked up an occasional Noble Prize and an Oscar or two.[2] 

We had a mostly British palate, stylised as meat and three ‘veg’ and had the equivalent of a national dessert, Pavlova named after the Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova.  

The Australia of today, with a population of nearly 26 million coming from over 200 different countries, has enriched our diversity in ways that continues to make us the most unique country in the world building on the legacy of the traditional owners.  Australia’s Islamic community, with its long historical connections, is part of this history of diversity and enrichment including through your faith traditions. 

It is thus with great pleasure that Dennis and I thank you for this invitation to join you and the 350,000-strong[3] NSW Islamic community on the occasion of the birthdate of the Prophet Mohammed (May peace be upon him) as you celebrate the spiritual strength, the cultural vibrancy and the significant contribution of the Islamic community to all areas of our public life and to our multi-faith community.

Faith is a deeply personal matter but one which is nurtured and celebrated in community. As a community, observance and faith traditions become osmotically interwoven into the fabric of society.  Fascinating for me as a lawyer and jurist, and now as Governor of New South Wales, are the Islamic traditions of community, governance and education.  

Known throughout Mecca as “Al-Amin”: “The Trustworthy” Mohammed looked after the disadvantaged, demonstrating both compassion and charity,[4] a tradition which is constant throughout the Muslim year but particularly at Ramadan.

One of the first things the Prophet Muhammad did for the peoples of Medina was to draft a document known as the ‘Constitution of Medina’ (or the “Ummah Document”) in 622CE,[5] one of the earliest constitutional documents[6] in history, which promoted peace and cooperation and specified the rights, freedoms and duties of all citizens, including respect for the different faiths and communities of the various groups of Medina, among them Jews and Christians.

And the University of Al Karaouine is considered to be the oldest university in the world, established in 859 in Fez Morocco, which continues its fine tradition of scholarship within Morocco’s state university system, retaining as its central focus Islamic religious and legal sciences. 

Whilst, as one commentator has remarked: “Our society may not be as [religiously literate as] it once was, …faith is still foundational to the lives and stories of millions across our country”.[7]  Mawlid is a time to celebrate the many centuries of years of Islamic civilisation, which has given the world great scholars, writers, artists and architects; it has infused society with science, music, art, literature and has a faith tradition shared by hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

Thank you to Darulfatwa, the High Islamic Council of Australia, and the Islamic Charity Projects Association for bringing us together in peace, in joy and in friendship.

Dennis and I wish you all a memorable Mawlid celebration.

Mawlid Mubarak[8]

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