Bill's Speeches

NATIONAL UNITY DAY

NATIONAL UNITY DAY

 

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

TUESDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2015

 

 

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It is an honour to be here today and I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land first, and their elders both past and present.

Because you can’t have national unity without national reconciliation and recognition in our constitution for our first Australians.

As I said in the press conference, today is a very timely event.

We do face challenges at home in light of difficult events in recent days and weeks, terrible events. But we face a challenge also of response. We face the challenges of division and exclusion.

I know that people of all faiths – from time to time – have to deal with the shouting of ugly intolerance, the ignorant face of racism and prejudice.

But it is important to remember that this country has faced these sort of challenges in different forms before in our history.

Just ask our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Ask the Southern Europeans arriving here after the Second World War.

The Vietnamese boat people.

Even my tribe, the Irish Catholics.

My mother grew up an Australian Catholic, but barely 60 years ago she was refused work at her local supermarket because of her religion.

Times change but the challenges will always occur.

So for me this day is about distinguishing light from dark, understanding from ignorance.

There is hope in the promise of tolerance, love, harmony and peace.

There is no hope in the promise of racism, intolerance and condoning bigotry and violence, no matter how that promise is seductively offered.

So we should use today in Parliament to declare that the bigots, the racists, the haters, the extremists, do not speak for people of faith in modern Australia.

Modern Australia is our home, it is testament to what good can occur when we unite.

In the last month or so tens of thousands of Australians have celebrate Eid Al-Adha – a feast marking a story of sacrifice actually shared by all three of the Abrahamic faiths: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

Also there has been tens of thousands of Australians celebrated Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year.

And later this year in November, tens of thousands of Australians will celebrate Deepavali – the Hindu festival of lights.

That is our modern Australia.

When Australians comes together, when Australian's come together we form an indivisible host of moral strength which gives Australia a better stronger future.

A better future founded upon love, understanding and peace, not conflict and division.

Friends, tradition across all our faiths says each new year marks a fresh start. A chance to make new promises and new resolutions.

Perhaps today we could resolve, that one has every right to have faith and pride in their own heritage, but not to isolate from Australian society and laws and customs.

One’s faith should be a guide to show many Australians from many cultures and religions about the merits and values one’s faith.

We should also recognise that faith should never be a destination to retreat into, but rather a platform to proudly explain to others.

We should also promise and resolve that every Australian no matter what their faith, country of birth or their gender should believe that their background is as equal as every other Australian.

Not superior or more worthy, but simply equal.

Friends, like all of you I have a powerful belief in Australians.

Australian Muslims, Australian Christians, Australian Jews and Australian Hindus, and Australians of all faith and indeed Australians who profess no particular faith.

But what we should all resolve in this national day of unity is that all of us should never surrender faith in Australia.

To paraphrase what someone has said never lose faith in Australia.  Its faults are ours to fix, not to reject.

From the diversity of our people let us draw strength, not weakness.

Thank you.

 

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