I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet,
the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to elders past and
His Excellency General the Hon David Hurley, Governor of NSW, and Mrs
Angelos Frangopoulos, Chairman of the Australian Day Council of NSW, and
fellow Council members.
Our outstanding NSW Australians of the Year, Professor Michelle Simmons
and Eddie Woo, who are with us today, as well as Macinley Butson and Dr
Ita Buttrose, the 2013 Australian of the Year.
Each Australia Day, we celebrate who we are as a people and our achievements as
a nation – the Australian values that guide us and the individuals who espouse these
values through their actions and words.
We recognise with honour that our national story begins with the First Australians,
our indigenous communities and their unique heritage that stretches back forty
That we are home to the world’s oldest continuing culture is a cause for celebration
every day, but especially on Australia Day.
It fills us all with such great pride – and with determination to make sure that we
value, protect and continue to support the aspirations of all our indigenous
My Family’s Story
Australia Day is a time for all of us to acknowledge and appreciate the qualities that
have made Australia the greatest nation on earth.
But it is also a day to remind ourselves why we cannot afford to take what we have in
this country for granted.
My sisters and I grew up in a household where my parents were extremely proud of
our Armenian heritage, but incredibly grateful that Australia had given them the
opportunity to raise a family in freedom and peace.
My grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and my parents grew up
among the Armenian diaspora spread across the Middle East.
They migrated separately to Sydney in the late 1960s, met and were married here,
and worked hard as a welder and a nurse to give my sisters and I the opportunities
they never had.
Growing up, we were especially proud that our dad had worked on the secondhighest
sail of the Sydney Opera House.
Despite being highly intelligent and industrious, neither of my parents had the
chance to finish high school or live with the freedoms that my sisters and I – like
many Australians – would often take for granted.
For me, this opportunity meant receiving an education at public school and becoming
the first member of my extended family to go to university.
When I started school as a 5 year old with a very long surname who couldn’t speak
English, I was obviously oblivious to the opportunities that would present themselves
to me, uniquely, in Australia.
My parents constantly reminded us of the opportunity we had been given, the
importance of working hard, and the responsibility to give back in whichever way we
They encouraged us to volunteer for local charities and to be involved in all aspects
of school life.
To this day, my father hangs the Australian flag on the verandah of the family home
in North Ryde every Australia Day.
This gesture is his way of demonstrating his gratitude and loyalty to our nation.
Values and Freedoms We Share
A week from now, across our state, fellow Australians of many different backgrounds
and walks of life will come together to celebrate our shared values and freedoms.
Our loyalty to Australia is not defined by how many generations ago our families may
have settled here, but by how much we appreciate the laws and freedoms we have,
how hard we work to protect them, and our commitment to never take these
freedoms for granted.
On Australia Day it is important for us to thank the successive generations of
Australians who were trailblazers, and who sacrificed so much so that we can enjoy
the society we have today.
Indigenous Australians who are the custodians of tens of thousands of years of
The colonial pioneers and their descendants who built a free democracy and
established the institutions that enable us to prosper to this day.
The successive waves of migrant communities who have enriched our cultural
experience and supported the construction of modern Australia.
Our servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who have
served and continue to serve in our defence forces – protecting Australia and taking
part in peacekeeping missions around the globe.
And ordinary Australians who work hard every day to be good citizens of our nation
Challenges We Face
It is our collective responsibility to make sure that the freedoms and values we enjoy
today are protected and secured for future generations.
The privileges and opportunities of Australia should never and can never be taken
While freedom, harmony and prosperity take centuries to achieve, they are easily
eroded if we do not remain vigilant.
It would be naïve and complacent to think Australia is immune from some of the
global trends that are dividing and disrupting other nations.
Rights and Responsibilities
All of us, no matter what our background or walk of life, should look at what we can
do on a personal level to be the best Australian citizens we can be.
Of course it is incumbent on each of us to obey our laws, enjoy our freedoms and
respect those same freedoms for others.
But we should also never forget that each of us has a stake in Australia’s success
and the ability to shape its future.
Every day, Australians do remarkable things as workers, volunteers and members of
their community, strengthening and supporting the values of equality of opportunity
and the fair go.
Whether it is helping the most vulnerable through charity, serving a community
organisation or just being a good neighbour, our individual, everyday contributions
are as integral to our nation’s success as are those achievements of extraordinary
Australians we acknowledge on Australia Day.
In Australia I truly believe we have a greater capacity than any other nation to fulfil
our dreams – the freedom for ordinary people to work hard and reach our potential,
to pursue big visions and make them a reality, and to hand a better, more just
society to the next generation.
To see this in action, we need only look at our 2018 Australians of the year.
I know they will not mind me saying that all of them are ordinary Australians who
through grit and sacrifice have dedicated themselves to improving the lives and
experiences of others.
Professor Simmons, the NSW Australian of the Year, is defining the boundaries of
quantum computing in ways that could transform so many aspects of our economy
Her ambition is to build a quantum computer that could solve problems in minutes
that would otherwise take thousands of years – and be applied to everything from
weather forecasting to medicine to artificial intelligence.
Dr Hamlin, our Senior Australian of the Year, has improved the lives of tens of
thousands of Ethiopian women, preventing and treating horrendous childbirth
Hers is an extraordinary example of Australian compassion and expertise making a
difference in the world.
Macinley Butson, our Young Australian of the Year, has won a prestigious global
award for new technology that protects breast cancer patients during surgery
At the age of just 17, she is a prolific inventor, pursuing new ideas to protect our
environment and improve our healthcare system.
Eddie Woo, our NSW Local Hero, has devoted his incredible talent to teaching
maths, inspiring students in Sydney and around the world, and mentoring young
people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He is sharing his passion for learning not just with the young people in his
classrooms, but with hundreds of thousands on social media – and next week he
will share his views on the future of Australia in this year’s Australia Day Address.
We honour these great Australians today, but the beauty of Australia is that each of
us has the potential to be a worthy recipient of these awards.
As citizens, each of us has the capacity to work towards a better Australia – not just
matching but building on the energy and inventiveness of our forebears.
That is what makes Australia the greatest nation on earth.
That is what we celebrate when we welcome new Australians at citizenship
ceremonies around the nation on Australia Day.
This Australia Day, let us take pride in all that makes Australia great, and make a
commitment never to take it for granted.
In 2018, let us all do everything in our power to strengthen our nation, be true to the
values that unite us, and secure the freedoms and opportunities of the country we
love, for generations of Australians to come.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet,