Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony

Location: Banyule City Council

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First I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people on whose land we meet, remembering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

And I want to welcome those of you from so many other cultures – here today to pledge your loyalty to your new country.

Leaving the country and people you know, starting afresh somewhere new takes great courage, determination and an unshakeable belief in new opportunities in a new land.

It means trusting your new country with your future – and your children’s future.

It is a great leap of faith.

I know sometimes the differences will be daunting; at times it will feel strange and lonely.

But as an Australian who grew up and went to public schools in country Victoria, went on to university, into politics and serving now as a Government minister – I promise you Australia is a country of opportunity.

A country with a tradition of a ‘fair go’ for everyone – whoever you are and wherever you came from.

Yesterday Mick Dodson was named 2009 Australian of the Year. Orpahaned at an early age, he went on to study law, was the first Aboriginal barrister and is now a professor at the Australian National University. He is an Aboriginal leader who embodies courage and determination.

The same determination to build a just and fair society that we see in the first African American president, Barak Obama – whose election has inspired renewed faith in equality and opportunity.

The son of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas – he has achieved what many considered both unthinkable and impossible.

As Obama himself said: it is the meaning of liberty when “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant” is now the 44th president of the United States.

It is the meaning of true equality and opportunity when the family of the President’s wife goes from slavery to First Lady over four generations.

In 1850, Michelle Obama’s great-great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson, was born a slave in Georgetown, South Carolina. He was illiterate, died at the age of 38 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

One hundred and fifty-nine years later his great-great-great granddaughter is in the White House which slaves helped build.

Today, at this ceremony you are promising your loyalty to a new country.

In return, your new country promises you opportunity, tolerance and a ‘fair go.’

And recognition of the contribution you and your family make.

As Barack Obama said of those who came from all over the world to settle America: “it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things… who have carried us towards prosperity and freedom.

“For us they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.”

To those of you here who have packed up and travelled across the oceans in search of a new life in Australia- you have our admiration and support.

Welcome and thank you.