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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 19155

Address to the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/03/2013

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 19155



We meet today on the traditional country of the Kulin Nation and I offer my respects to their elders past and present.

Up in Sydney when I've been at St Patrick's day events, the St Pat's Day lunch is hosted by a financial journalist, Michael Pascoe, who does a great job keeping the mob in line.

In Melbourne of course, we've got a champion footballer instead.

It's tempting to reflect on what this says about our two great cities, but as I'm sure St Patrick himself would counsel me: resist temptation. So I will.

So let's just talk about Melbourne for the moment. Truly it is impossible to imagine Melbourne without the Irish influence.

We're just down the road from St Patrick's Cathedral, that “work of centuries crowded into years”, a triumph of Gothic Revival and of Gaelic pride.

I'm sure some of you have come straight from confession to here.

We're a stone's throw away from that legendary Young and Jackson's, named for two Dubliners.

Perhaps some of you a little bit later in the day will pop over for a pint of cappuccino following lunch.

Even the river running past us now through the middle of Melbourne bears a resemblance to Anna Liffey.

Iris Murdoch had one of her characters say:

No man who has faced the Liffey can be
appalled by the dirt of another river.

And she didn't know the Yarra when that character uttered those words.

So on such an Irish day in such an Irish town it's very fitting that I can announce a special series of measures which will be in effect in this state this weekend to celebrate St Patrick.

This weekend, Phillip Island will be renamed ‘Old Ireland'.

Every bar and cafe will substitute Vic Bitter with Guinness.

Seal Rock will be renamed Selkie Rock. The Nobbies will be re-named the O'Nobbies.

The traffic lights on the way through town won't be red orange and green – they'll be green, orange and white.

I ‘m contemplating name myself Taoiseach Gillard for a day too, I reckon that'd be fun too.

And Laura Smyth is heading straight from here: she'll be up all night dressing the fairy penguins up as leprechauns.

Now, as you know, it is certainly true, I'm not Irish: I was born in Barry, in Wales.

And I was raised in the Baptist tradition: we weren't really allowed to believe in Saints.

Or in drinking.

Or in dancing now that I come to think of it.

And the kind of songs I first heard the O'Connor brothers sing at uni would have gotten the Gillards expelled from chapel for life – that's certainly true!

So coning from that background the basic rituals of this day are something I still find a delightful novelty.

But as I'm sure most of you know, my Welsh blood is actually why I have some authority on the subject of St Patrick.

Never forget that St Paddy's Day is actually all about a Taff – someone from Wales.

I'm always struck that while it took pirates to bring young Patrick into Ireland and they took him there as a slave, once he gained his freedom, the first thing he did was to swear to go back.

After all, he had met the Irish people.

That was the great good fortune in St Patrick's life and it's one of the great good fortunes of life of Australia.

We've been so blessed by the contributions of great Irish individuals who've made names for themselves and their people.

We've been even more blessed by all the millions who've come – their millions of descendants – and the tens of thousands of Irish-born Australians who live with us today: the countless, nameless nation-builders of Irish Australia.

You've come a long way, we've come a long way, and we've achieved so much together.

Today is the perfect day to celebrate it all.

Because the story of St Patrick, at its human core, is the story of a man who breaks the chains, who works and learns, who dedicates himself to others and who changes a nation.

And that, friends, is the story of the Irish in Australia.

So enjoy the holy-day.


Transcript 19155