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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 15152

Address at Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony Commonwealth Park, Canberra

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 26/01/2007

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 15152


Thank you very much Louise. Can I start by thanking and acknowledging the Ngunnawal people and that wonderful dance presentation. It was, as always, very inspiring, very enjoyable and really struck a wonderful note for the commencement of this citizenship ceremony. I acknowledge also Lisa Curry-Kenny, the Chairman of the National Australia Day Council, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the defence chiefs and my fellow Australians. It's great to be here at Regatta Point again and I start by saying to our more then 100 applicants, nominees, candidates, whatever you call them for Australian Citizenship, how very deeply honoured we are that you have chosen Australia to be your national family for the rest of your life because becoming a citizen is joining the national family. And as always the people who are becoming citizens today are drawn from the four corners of the earth, and that is how we like it to be, that is how it's been for a very long time and that is how it will be for years and years into the future.

You may be drawn from the four corners of the earth but you are united by a common love of this country of ours and you are united by a common commitment to its traditions, its values, its triumphs as well as an acknowledgement of its failures, its successes as well as its mistakes. We have had over the last few months quite a debate about what is loosely called Australian values, and I think it would be rather odd if I didn't say something very briefly about that issue on this Australia Day in 2007.

As is rightfully the tradition of a great democracy, there is no one absolutely immovable, unalterable, set in stone set of values. People will have different views about what are the values of this country. But I do think there are some things that most of us hold very dear and hold to be the essence of what it is to be an Australian. I think we all embrace and hold very strongly to the fact that this is a great democracy. Australia is one of only a handful of countries, you could count them on the fingers of your two hands, that remained continuously democratic through the entirety of the 20th Century, and that was a remarkable achievement.

It was one of the counties that earlier in time gave full voting rights to women, although it lagged sadly in some parts of the country, I stress some, in giving voting rights to the first Australians, the Indigenous people. We are a nation that holds very strongly to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary. We believe very strongly in a free press. There are some of us on occasions who feel a little uncomfortable about the way in which certain ways in which that freedom is expressed, but we wouldn't have it otherwise because it is fundamental to our democratic way of life. We believe very passionately in the equality of men and women. It is something that Australia strives very hard to practice and it's something that Australia believes in very strongly. Many of us express this in different ways but we do believe in the notion of the fair go, the idea of equality of opportunity. We believe very deeply that a person's worth is determined by their character and by the effort they put in to being a good citizen, not according to their social class, or their background, or their religion, or their race, or their colour or their creed.

I think most of us have a fundamental pride in what Australia has achieved. We can debate our history, as we should, but fundamentally the verdict of history is that Australia has been a remarkable success and we have built in this country a great nation, an outward looking nation, a very generous nation and a nation that holds tenaciously to the view that we should play our part as a good international citizen.

And finally I think most Australians think it's very important that we embrace as our common method of communication with each other a single language, and that is the English language, because citizenship and interaction with each other is impossible unless we can effectively communicate with one another. I say all of those things in acknowledging that the people who will become Australian citizens today come from a diversity of backgrounds. And I say to all of you that in asking you, as we all do, and knowing that you willingly accept the responsibility to do so, to become part of the Australian family, we don't ask you to forget your homeland. We recognise that from now until the day you die you will have a special place in your heart for the country in which you were born. That is only human, it is only natural and it would be mean-spirited of your new country to expect you ever to lose a particular affection and a special place in your heart for the country in which you were born.

In that spirit can I say I welcome all of you to the great Australian family. It's a wonderful nation, it's the greatest on the earth, we think we're pretty good and we are. We've made our share of mistakes, we haven't always treated some of our citizens as well as we should have, and I think particularly of the earlier treatment of the Indigenous people of Australia, but we are in every sense of the word a generous people and we are so very grateful that you have decided to become part of our great Australian family. Thank you.


Transcript 15152