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Tuesday, 23 July 2019
St Stephen's Uniting Church
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC

I would like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we gather, the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, who have nurtured and sustained this land for tens of thousands of years. I acknowledge their living culture and affirm my respect for their elders, ancestors and descendants.

It is a great pleasure to be Patron of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in this diamond anniversary year of the award in Australia, a year when over 13,500 young people from schools and organisations across New South Wales have registered to participate across all three levels of the program.

I am very proud to continue in a long line of Governors who have been Patrons of the Duke of Edinburgh International Award, which gives me the opportunity to meet so many fine young Australians, your parents, guardians, families, school principals and Award leaders.

The Duke of Edinburgh Awards have created generations of leaders since the founding Director of the Awards, Sir John Hunt, led the first successful European expedition to climb Mount Everest in 1953.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who were credited as the first people to summit, were part of this expedition. Serendipitously, news of the successful summit reached London in time to be released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, on the 2 June.

It is Sir Edmund Hillary who famously said: 

‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.’

The first Australian Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award was presented by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1963. The Award was presented on board HMY Britannia, moored off the Sydney Opera House, which was, at that time, under construction.

The first Award-holder, Sydney Grammar School student Michael Dillon, went on to become a leading international film-maker and cinematographer. On the strength of his Gold Award, on leaving school, he applied for a job with Sir Edmund Hillary. Michael went on to work for Sir Edmund for 25 years, and his documentary, Everest: Sea to Summit, became one of the most internationally awarded adventure documentaries of all time.

Importantly, Michael continued to be enthused by the Service aspect of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, spending time with Sir Edmund Hillary to build schools in the Himalayas and starting the Australian Himalayan Foundation.

It is this history and legacy that inspires us today.

Today’s Duke of Edinburgh presentation is the culmination of several strenuous sectors of the Award – Voluntary Service, Skill, Physical Recreation, Adventurous Journey and your Gold Residential Project.

Your commitment in terms of time is exceptional with a minimum commitment of 12 months at the Gold level, having already achieved the Bronze and Silver levels.

Let me share with you some of the reflection statements of participants in the Gold Award which eloquently capture the essence of these awards and their continuing relevance:

Jarrod: ‘The highlight of my Award were the Journeys involved, hiking some of the most enduring and memorable tracks in New South Wales. Although difficult, once you come out the other end of the track, you've come out knowing you are the best of yourself.’

Chantelle: ‘Participating in the Award has deepened my reverence for God's creation, people and land.

The Award is more than a character building exercise, it is an odyssey to finding one's identity; contemplating who we want to be and appreciating where we are.’

Katerina: ‘The highlight of my Award was travelling to a rural Fijian village and helping to improve & refurbish the educational facilities at their local school. I gained a love for giving back to the community & making a genuine difference to the quality of life of others.’

Shelley: ‘During my Award I have completed many challenges, especially the Adventurous Journey that has grown and developed me as a person including becoming an effective and confident leader which is a skill that I will continue to use throughout my life.’

Charlie: ‘Hiking through blizzards and tobogganing in woks, will remain one of my greatest memories. The Award as a whole taught me the importance of self-belief in the face of adversity, and importantly to always keep your chin up and look on the bright side.’

Charlie’s mention of ‘Tobogganing in woks’ intrigued me, particularly as my initial reaction was that it might have been a typographical error. As it turns out, ‘Tobogganing in woks’ is a European sport. The official history of wok racing began in 2003 when a German TV channel had the idea of sending various celebrities down a bobsled track in Innsbruck on a wok.

Now the annual Wok World Championship attracts sponsors and competitors from across Europe!

Like the fearless wok tobogganers of Innsbruck, you have all been tested physically, but also emotionally and intellectually.

Through the activities you have undertaken you have gained in personal insight and self-knowledge – and with self-knowledge comes leadership.

Community Service is a large part of these Awards. Over 200 hours of commitment is required to complete the Gold Award. This is no small achievement in a year in which many of you are also preparing for the HSC or the Baccalaureat.

There have been several studies done on the economic benefits of community service.  The social and cultural benefits to communities and to the well-being of volunteers are also well documented.

Indeed, the Chair of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award - Australia The Honourable. Gary Nairn AO, recognises this in his Message of introduction to the 2019 Handbook, when he said:

‘Today, the Award reaches into many corners of Australian society, from Indigenous and remote and rural communities to metropolitan areas; from prisons to hospitals to new refugee communities; from schools to universities, to disability groups; and from voluntary organisations to corporations; the Award is truly a leading achievement program available to all young Australians.

Award Holders emerge from the program as confident young citizens with community awareness on both a local and global level.’

The reflection statements of our Gold Award Holders today demonstrate your sense of achievement and the capacity of the program to unleash your potential, connect you to community, and develop your leadership qualities.

Your Award leaders have been your Expedition leaders and they too deserve our – and your – congratulations.

There can be no better way as Gold Medal Award Holders of thanking those people who have guided you than by continuing your service to your communities throughout your future careers.

May I also encourage each of you to share your Award story. Your Award stories will act as an encouragement to others to be active participants in their community.

In the years ahead, live true to what you have learned in your Duke of Edinburgh journey:

Go after life, step out on the adventure, rise to the challenge, keep learning and serving others.


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