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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 21080

Address at the Australia Day Flag Raising 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: 26/01/2004

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 21080

Thank you very much Marjorie Turbayne, Your Excellencies and my fellow Australians. Today we gather to rejoice in the incredible privilege we have of being Australians and belonging to this wonderful country.

It';s an occasion that brings forth, quite properly in a robust democracy, debate about what constitutes a good Australian, debate about what Australian values are, debate about the things that we have done wrong as well as the things that we have done right as a nation and as a people. And it';s fair to say, and this is part of our great strength, we';re never going to reach agreement on any of those things. We';re going to agree on certain values, we';re going to debate and disagree on others. And that is how it should be and that has always been the Australian way, and long may it remain as the Australian way. You cannot be too prescriptive about what constitutes a national character. You cannot legislate or regulate patriotism. It grows out of the behaviour and the spirit of the people of this country.

And last night when I had the very great privilege of announcing the four awards in the Australian of the Year Awards, I thought each of the individual recipients, in their different ways, contributed to part of the great Australian character. When I congratulated Hugh Evans, the Young Australian of the Year, I like many others was inspired by his youthful idealism, and I thought to myself – if that kind of youthful idealism is alive in the heart of that young Australian, and if it in any way typifies his generation, then the future of this country is in very safe hands indeed. When I congratulated Tehree Gordon, the Senior Australian of the Year, someone who dedicated her life to restoring and healing and caring, and who made it very plain that no Australian had a use by date, I thought of the immense ongoing contribution of older Australians in so many ways to the strength and the future of our nation.

And then of course we were all touched by the incredibly painful and inspiring story of Donna Carson, a lady who endured the most terrible pain and injury at the hands of, and the consequence of a very wicked deed. And her getting through that and rebuilding her life is an example of how tragedy and suffering can be overcome, and it represents yet another part of the national character and the national traits that constitute Australians.

And finally in the Australian of the Year in Steve Waugh, not only somebody admired because of his skill and capacity as a sportsman and representing a very important part of our national life, but also somebody whose laconic, direct character is so representative of much of what is Australian, and many Australians see in him something of themselves.

You always tell a story of a nation far better by the story of its citizens than by anything else, and in those four people, we have at least four great characteristics of the modern Australian. We have youthful idealism, we have the ongoing care and commitment of older Australians, we have incredible courage and personal endurance in the face of pain and adversity, and we have skill and excellence not only on the sporting field, but in so many other areas. That is not the limit of us, but it is an illustration of the richness of who we are in 2004.

May I finally on behalf of all of you thank and congratulate Marjorie Turbayne on the leadership she has displayed in bringing together this gathering. It';s a wonderful setting and I think anybody who was at the presentation ceremony last night for the Australian of the Year Awards and the concert subsequently, saw Canberra and the national capital at its best. It was a wonderful venue for that occasion and I think there are many people who think it might, and ought to, continue as the venue for that occasion years into the future. Happy Australia Day to all of you. It';s great to be amongst you. Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 21080