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Thursday, 26 January 2023
Barangaroo Reserve
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC

Bujari Gamarruwa

Diyn Babana, Gamarada Gadigal Ngura

Yvonne, thank you, not only for your welcome but for your wisdom. I pay my respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands across our State and our nation, as I greet you in the language of the Gadigal, the Traditional Owners of this land. 

Elders, Premier, Ministers - State and Federal, Leader of the Opposition, Senator, Special Guests - all,

Eora budgeri - Good people, all of us,

WugulOra, the first ceremony of today, is a celebration of an ancient culture and a history which is written in the landscape and embedded in the ageless traditions of art, dance and song.  For the past 20 years, this ceremony, now with its home at Barangaroo, has centred us as Australians and reminds us that the belonging signified by those words: WugulOra, “one mob”, is the connection we have with family, community, with land and with each other.  It speaks not only to our oneness but to the sacredness of these connections.  

Thinking about today has given me the opportunity to reflect on the history we, as Australians, share and the future we wish for.

As Australians, we celebrate the uniqueness of our country, with its trifold history of ancient land and peoples; its British history which has established our systems of government and institutions, and our later history, described by Noel Pearson as the “gift of multicultural migration”.[1] 

We have leaders, writers and artists who have shaped us.  Of the many names which come to mind, we can start here on this headland named after that strong warrior woman, Barangaroo. There are those who have passed, to whom we pay our respects, including the great poet, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, and the leader, Charles Perkins.  There are today’s leaders, including Lowitja O’Donoghue, and so many others, and the Elders who open us up to Country, culture, language and history, in their welcomes and in the wisdom they impart to us. 

We have the works of those who have captured history in their remarkable photography, including Merv Bishop and his 1975 photograph of Gough Whitlam pouring soil into the hand of Vincent Lingiari at the symbolic handover of the deed to Gurindji country.  We have the richness of language encapsulated in the works of poets and writers, including Kirli Saunders, here today.  There are the many great artists who paint country from the desert to the sea to the streets of our cities.

To secure the future that we wish for, we as a nation need to have a dream - a dream for equality and a shared humanity; a dream which powered the Freedom Ride Bus in 1965 as it travelled through Walgett on the way to Moree and other towns; a dream at the heart of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and of the many statements and petitions which preceded it; a dream for all Australians to have their and our rightful place on and in this land.

To make this dream a reality, it must be based in our history. Rachel Perkins observed in her 2019 Boyer Lecture that we, here today, are not responsible for that history, but we are the inheritors of it.[2]  It is how we know our history, accept our history, how we unify our dreams as “one mob”, that will mark us out today to future generations. 

Let that future be one which is hopeful, exciting and uplifting; a future where, to use the words of Noel Pearson, we are “one indissoluble commonwealth”[3] of people, or - to use the words of today’s ceremony - WugulOra: one mob. 

'Australiagal ya’nga yabun

Eora budgeri

Yarragal Bamal Yarrabuni'

These are the first three phrases of our Anthem in the Sydney Language. Their direct translation:

Australians do sing, a good people; yellow earth, do not tire yourself’ ...

is a reminder that we are all custodians as we walk softly on this land which we call home.  

Let me finish with the last phrase of the Anthem:

'Yirrabana Australiagal: ‘This way Australian(s)’.

[1] Noel Pearson, 2 June 2018, Cape York Institute, ‘Declaration of Australia and the Australian People’

[2] Rachel Perkins, 2019 Boyer Lecture

[3] Noel Pearson, 2 June 2018, Cape York Institute: ‘Declaration of Australia and the Australian People’



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