Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO THE MARIBYRNONG CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY - MELBOURNE - SATURDAY, 26 JANUARY 2019

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Good morning everybody, and might I say first of all, welcome to all of you who are about to become Australian citizens. It is a great privilege and we welcome you most sincerely.
 
To the distinguished guests, the friends of our new citizens, to my fellow Australian citizens. 
 
Today I think it is particularly important that we as a nation acknowledge our traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging. 
 
Sixty thousand years before the first white sail was seen off the East Coast, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made this continent their home.
 
They named the mountains and the stars in the sky. They fished the rivers and hunted the plains. They knew the plants and animals. They built, right here, the world's oldest living culture. 
 
Our First Australians served this country in war, have enriched our lives in peace, and have fought with patience and bravery two centuries of dispossession and discrimination. 
 
Today we should acknowledge that our First Australians deserve an equal share in our nation's future, an equal right for a fulfilling and healthy life, and an equal say in the decisions and directions of this country - a voice enshrined in the nation's birth certificate, the Constitution. 
 
So on Australia Day let us all rededicate ourselves to the unfinished business of reconciliation. 
 
Friends, as Tim Watts, my neighbouring member- and also local member for this area of Gellibrand - Katie Hall, our brand new State Member for Footscray, and Catherine Cumming in the upper house know, attending a citizenship ceremony is actually one of the really fine privileges of being an elected Member of Parliament.
 
What we go through today can happen at night or day, summer or winter.
 
Becoming a citizen can happen in crowded halls or sunlit parks.
 
Wherever this remarkable event is happening over Australia, and even today, I think that this occasion speaks something to all of our hearts, because we are a country, a nation which is built upon the passion, the imagination, the hard work, the love, and the sacrifice of generations of migrants.
 
Something special about today, because what is happening here is happening all over Australia.
 
In all four corners of Australia, people are becoming Australians. 
 
Now some, if not many who come to this country, come from some very difficult parts of the world. 
 
Some of you have come from a nation divided by war, areas of extreme poverty, places where danger and disturbance and discord are a more familiar part of everyday life than they are here in Australia. 
 
But all of you, in fact all of the new citizens taking the oath today, you understand the gift, the gift of becoming an Australian citizen. And you made the sacrifice of leaving your country of birth, in many cases to give your children a better life.
 
And regardless of the circumstances whereby you arrive here today, it is a difficult decision. It's always an international leap of faith to depart from the scene of your first steps, your first words, your memories, the familiar backdrop of your life, and your identity. 
 
The choice you make today was the choice that my own father made - an English seafarer who came ashore here in search of a better life for my brother and I. 
 
It's the choice that my mother's ancestors made - well, other than the convicts, they were sent here. 
 
It was a choice that some of the ones looking for gold in the gold rush, in the 1850s made, when they came to the colony of Victoria.
 
They were looking for gold - we still haven't found any, but...
 
But in fact my story is no different to any of your stories.
 
Apart from our First Australians, one way or the other, we've all got a migration story. 
 
But today through the words of the solemn citizenship oath, you will begin your Australian story in a formal way, and you will formally join your story to our Australian story. 
 
And I promise you this as new citizens - you do this as the equal of every other woman and man with whom you share this continent - young and old, bush to coast, Australians by birth and Australians by choice. Because of this great lucky egalitarian nation which we all call home, we are equal. 
 
Now I understand that perhaps some of the new citizens and their friends, today scratch their heads when they look at some of the things going on in your new adopted country.
 
You might find it difficult, for instance, to wonder why it matters if you wear shorts to a citizenship ceremony today. 
 
Some of you may have a been puzzled by the arguments about the date of our national day, because for you what matters is celebrating becoming an Australian, not on the particular calendar day in which you do it. 
 
What matters are not these debates, what matters are the golden opportunities that you achieve by coming to this country, by becoming a citizen of this fantastic country - they're far more important then a lot of the arguments I and other politicians have. 
 
So today take a moment or two to reflect. We say welcome. 
 
You know far too well the importance and significance of leaving behind some of the hardships of other places, and becoming part of this great country, and our Australian family.
 
I want to finish by this point - please rest assured no matter what some voices might say, what makes a good Australian is not measured by how long you have held the certificate of citizenship. 
 
What matters about making a good Australian is not defined by when you came here, or how your family came here, or where you were born.
 
Being a good Australian is not described by the postcode you live in or the wealth you possess in your bank account. 
 
Being a good Australian is not determined by your gender, by the god you worship or indeed if you worship none, who you pray to or indeed who you love. It is not about the colour of your skin, it is about what is in your heart.
 
What makes a good Australian is what is in your heart, it's the life you make here. 
 
What makes a good Australian is how you raise your children, whether you adhere to the law of this country, it's whether you give back to your community - are you a good neighbour, a good parent, a good worker. 
 
What makes a good Australian is about being indeed that kind to a stranger in need and strong in your own misfortune. Kindness in another's needs, and courage in your own. 
 
What makes a good Australian is about what we can do collectively together to give new meaning to that oldest of Australian promises - the fair go for all.
 
It is what we can do in this country to ensure that Australian citizenship is a right for all, not just some.
 
It's about making this great country a fairer place for those who follow us. 
 
It's about whether or not we hand on a better deal to our children and those who come after us - a better deal than the one we inherited from our parents. 
 
When I look out at this marvellous audience, I can see pride in your faces, I can see hope in your family's faces, and I see pride in the faces of your friends and supporters. 
 
I promise you that when I hear you pledge yourself to our laws, our land, our people and our democracy, I see a chamber full of very good Australians. 
 
Congratulations, welcome to becoming an Australian citizen. You are most welcome.


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