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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7354

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER PRESENTATION OF THE IRISE BICENTENNIAL GIFT CANBERRA - 12 JULY 1988

Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 12/07/1988

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 7354

PRIME MINISTER
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY EMBARGOED UNTIL DELIVERY
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER
PRESENTATION OF THE IRISH BICENTENNIAL GIFT
CANBERRA -12 JULY 1988
Taoiseach and Mrs Haughey,
Ladles and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure on behalf of all Australians to
welcome to Canberra our very good friends, Charles and
Maureen Haughey.
Charles Haughey is the leader not just of a nation with
which Australia has a warm and valuable relationship but
also of a people, a free people, with whom Australians have
the deepest ties of kinship and of history.
I have the added pleasure, since my visit to Ireland last
year, of welcoming Charles Haughey as a personal friend.
That gives me the responsibility, as his host over the next
couple of days, of endeavouring to repay in Australia the
hospitality extended to me on that visit to Ireland. That's
an awesome responsibility but one which I look forward to
meeting.
At the start of your visit, Taoiseach, let me say simply
that we welcome you and your wife to Australia as some of
our closest friends.
I know all Australians would want you to think of Australia
as your second home.
Taoiseach, You come to Australia in its Bicentennial year. This is a
time when we are recalling the more than 40,000 years during
which the Aboriginal people occupied and cared for this
land. And we are celebrating too, the achievements of the
past two hundred years since the arrival of the First Fleet.
They have been two centuries in which the Irish people have
played a prominent and distinguished part.
Just over two hundred years ago, a small party of prisoners
and prison guards set off from the British Isles to
establish in Australia what was planned as merely an
extension of the overcrowded British prison system. 299

But when they arrived at Port Jackson, the First Fleet
pioneers found not a prison compound, but a wide continent.
And they founded not a jail but a nation.
Two hundred years later, Australians are proud of the way
that nation has grown and prospered, and are determined to
protect and enhance the heritage we have received a
heritage of peace, independence, liberty, prosperity,
egalitarianism. That heritage is the result of the commitment and vision of
many people from many lands.
But it is particularly appropriate that our Bicentennial
should see this visit to Australia by the Irish head of
Government. For Australia owes an incalculable debt to the thousands of
convicts and free settlers who came from Ireland to
Australia over the last two hundred years.
For many of them, seeking an escape from famine and
hardship, Australia offered work, food, land, gold.
For many others, of course, there was no choice about making
the voyage to Australia. They were exiled as a punishment
for criminal acts many of which today of course appear so
petty or as a retribution for attempting to express
through rebellion the stirrings of Irish nationalism.
For all of them, the passage to Australia must have been a
wild venture into the unknown.
But they came in such numbers, and they carried with them in
such great supply, the beauty and the passion of Irish
culture, and on arrival they worked with such diligence,
that before long Australia was familiar territory to the
people of Ireland.
Indeed, as I said in my address to the Dail, Ireland is the
most anti-imperialist of nations. But it does hold sway
over a great spiritual empire, an empire won not by force of
arms but by force of Irish character. And Australia is
proud to be one of its principal provinces.
It is no misrepresentation to say that, from the arrival of
the First Fleet, the Irish constituted Australia's first
ethnic minority. As members of a rich and tolerant
multicultural society, Australians acknowledge that the long
struggle of the Irish for identity, acceptance and full
participation on an equal footing had a dramatic effect in
strengthening our sense of, and our commitment to, justice
and equality of opportunity.
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Taoiseach,
Given all this, it is not surprising that Ireland's
contribution to the Australian bicentenary has been generous
and full hearted.
The Asgard II participated in the Parade of Tall Ships. The
Irish Gold and Silver exhibition is currently touring
Australia. A large number of other artistic and scholarly
links have been initiated.
But Australians today are receiving ano ' ther Irish gift
this remarkable and valuable set of computerised records of
some forty thousand people transported from Ireland to
Australia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
This gift will be of great historical value for the many
scholars engaged in the work of understanding our past.
But its chief beneficiaries I believe will be the many
Australian men and women of Irish descent who in s eeking to
discover their own family histories will find in this gift a
resource of outstanding value.
These convict records are to be lodged here in the National
Library, where they will be available for all to use. in
recognition of two hundred years of Irish presence in
Australia, the Library has mounted the exhibition we are
about to see.
I trust you will accept my thanks, Taoiseach, on behalf of
the Australian people, for the generosity of the Irish
people, and the hard work of the Irish Bicentennial
Committee, for this splendid gift.
Taoiseach, The first play performed in Australia was George Farquhar's,
The Recruiting officer. For the production in 1789, a
prologue was written some say by the Irish convict George
Barrington, who was transported to Australia as a
pickpocket. Whoever actually wrote the prologue had a cynical view of
things. He described the convicts as " true patriots all",
" For, be it understood,
we left our country for our country's good
And none will doubt but that our emigration,
Has prov'd most useful to the British nation."
Perhaps it was true at the tine that the process of
transporting convicts to Australia was of benefit to
Britain. 801

But what is certainly true today, taking the long view
afforded by our Bicentenary, is that the tide of advantage
has turned. It is Australia that gained most from the
arrival of the convicts, including most particularly, those
from Ireland. Over the years Australia has continued to
derive new vigour and new skills from the steady influx of
new settlers from Ireland.
To correct the prologue, then, we should say the Irish left
their country for Australia's good. Their emigration has
proved most useful to the Australian nation.
Sir, your gift of these convict records is a fitting and
lasting Bicentennial gift.
But the even larger and more enduring Bicentennial gift has
already been given to us the great contribution of the
Irish people over the last two hundred years to building our
nation, forging our character and enriching our future.
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Transcript 7354