Posted on March 14 2018
The following speech was given by Michael O'Connell AM APM, Commissioner for Victim's Rights and Australia Day Ambassador at the Australia Day & Citizenship Ceremony event for the City of Norwood, Payneham & St Peters 2018.
Ngangkirna, miyurna! Naa marni? Ladies and gentlemen - how are you?
I would like to Acknowledge that the land we meet on today is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and that I respect their spiritual relationship with their Country. I also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.
AUSTRALIA DAY - WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ME? An ACROSTIC POEM IN REPLY
A philosopher once wrote that to find the true meaning of a word you need to look into the word itself. This morning I look into the words ‘Australia’ and ‘Day’.
A (is for) - Admiration for that achieved - in technology (whether that be the humble Boomerang, Woomera, lifesaving medicines and treatments (for example, penicillin that has saved countless lives and artificial skin that has significant improved the lives of many burns victims) or e-technologies (such as wi-fi). In addition to these, there are the advances in social policy such as allowing women to vote and sit in parliament, introducing victims’ rights and victim assistance programmes (you might not know that Australia was a leader in crafting the un declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime and abuse of power), and most recently equity in marriage law.
U (is for) - Unusual Flora and Fauna - for instance, the bright yellow flower and brilliant green of the Wattle (colours we identify with our men & women cricketers, men & women soccer players, men & women rugby players, men & women basket ball players and other sports people); and, wholesome vegetation that sustained the Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years, which many of us have only discovered in recent decades. Australia is also home to the majority of the world's marsupials, which includes the wombat, the koala, the kangaroo, the wallaby, the echidna and the platypus.
S (is for) - Sea … As we sing in our National Anthem - Australia is girt by sea or as the Northern Territory Aboriginal People say, ‘cuddled by sea that brushes gorgeous beaches but also crashes against stunning cliffs; that has wrecked many a ship full of people desperate to reach our shores. Many of these people might have chosen other countries but they did not - instead they sought (and some still do) a better life with us.
T (is for) - transported As many were then given a chance and some seize it … such chance was also offered to the emancipists who settled in our State, a planned utopia, rather than a penal colony. Yet, South Australia was the first colony to have a state-wide police force to deal with among other ‘problems’ the rowdy and unruly ‘drunkards’ on the streets of Adelaide). We owe our gratitude today to those willing to take a chance - for some it might have been a carpe diem moment but for others it was a genuine aspiration for a ‘new world’. Later this morning, we will welcome by citizenship people who also want a chance to share this land with us.
R (is for) - Race and ethnicity as Australia today is enriched by its diversity … a striking feature of Australia's population is the large number of immigrants who have settled since World War Two. About one in every four persons is either a first or second generation settler. My life as a migrant and my family’s lives are indicative of this fact.
A (is for) - Ability to help those who fall victim of disaster, of crime, of misfortune or other that might cause distress … and this has thankfully prevailed albeit tested by an undercurrent of conservatism and me-ism. Australians in the main are respectful, compassionate and openly and willingly treat all people with dignity - although this might not always be evident in our ozzie-isms. I urge you to welcome those who become Australians today, here and everywhere.
L (is for) - lovely landscapes … The beauty of the Flinders Ranges, the harshness of the Simpson Desert, the wonder of Uluru and the glory of Kakadu as well as the ‘winter wonderland’ of the snowfields. The Barossa Valley, Mclaren Vale and other great wine districts in our state as well as the remarkable Kangeroo Island. Our state capital, Adelaide, is one of the most liveable places in the world.
I (is for) - island, So we are islanders who identify with ideals like ‘the fair go’ but alas these do not always translate into realities. We struggle still with our shared history - especially the horrors of the colonisation of the Indigenous Peoples. On the world stage, however, we have endeavored to be good global citizens voicing our abhorrence for violence against women and children as well as facilitating international justice by, for instance, helping to establish the international criminal court to try those who perpetrate crimes against humanity.
A (is for)- altogether … We should acknowledge our past, our present, and forge a future we can share. We can no longer ignore our history, for instance, the horrors and injustices inflicted on the oldest surviving culture in the world - our Indigenous, First Nation People. There is still much hurt to be addressed and much healing to be done. Together, however, we can forge a future ground on fairness, equality, tolerance and justice. A future that emphasises all we share but also acknowledges our differences.
D (is for) - delighted to be an Australian … delighted from the moment I stepped from an aeroplane as one of six children with '10 pound Pom' parents. Delighted to be called a mate. Delighted to have married an Australian, to have two Australian daughters, a son-in-law of Indigenous decent and another son-in-law who was born to an Italian father and a Brazilian mother and delighted that of all countries in the world my grand-children are Australian.
A (is for) - Australia is the world's largest island and the smallest continent. It is also the largest continent occupied by one nation and the least populated. Its people accepted me and i am proud to say I am Australian … for those who seek to be Australian, you too are very welcome, but please honour the oath you will make today.
Y (is for) - You … The people gathered here and in particular today the people who have chosen to become Australian - the candidates for citizenship among us. From today you will be entitled to cry aloud - I am, we are Australian!