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Transcript 21584

Speech to a Hindu Service to Mark the National Day of Mourning and Reflection Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Centre, Sydney

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: 16/01/2005

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 21584

Swami, Mr Consul General, and my fellow Australians, I would like first of all to express my gratitude for this opportunity of sharing a few moments with you as this congregation, in common with gatherings of Australians all around the nation today, have come together in different ways according to different customs and beliefs, and different cultures, to pause to remember and reflect, upon the terrible devastation caused by the Asian tsunami of the 26th December 2004.

So much has been said and written about this terrible natural catastrophe. It has brought unbelievable, unbearable grief to so many people in our region; to the people of India, to the people of Sri Lanka to the people of Indonesia, to the people of the Maldives to the people of Thailand, of Myanmar, and so the list goes on. And we think particularly as this Day of Mourning and Reflection draws to a close, we think particularly of those who have lost so much. We also think though, of the wonderful response of mankind to this terrible disaster. We think of the way in which the response has dissolved barriers, that people have been helped irrespective of their religion, of their race, of their nationality, of their political beliefs, that we have seen over the last three weeks, a spontaneous coming forward of that great common humanity that we all share, and it is an occasion like this that serves to remind all of the peoples of the world of what they have in common, and of the things that they have in common, and that the things that unite them are always stronger and more important than the things that divide us. We have seen over the past three weeks some scenes of unbelievable sadness and tragedy, but we have also been inspired by the response of the peoples of the world. As Australians we can all be immensely proud of the response of our own nation.

It has been a response not only of the government, but also a response of all of the people of Australia, and the contributions and the sharing, as best we can in our own ways, of the grief that so many have suffered is a demonstration to the world of the good heart and the decency and the humanity, that resides within Australia. This is an occasion of course that reminds Australians of the Hindu faith in particular, and Australians whose ancestry is from India or Sri Lanka or many other parts of the sub- continent, but particularly at this gathering of India, of the bonds that there are between our two countries. They are bonds of history and of language, they are bonds of sporting endeavour, they are bonds that are very real, and I was able as part of an expression of those bonds, I was able to speak within two nights of the disaster to the Prime Minister of India. He was one of the very first leaders of the affected nation that I spoke to, and he expressed to me his gratitude for the instantaneous character of the Australian response.

And through our aid agencies and through the government and in so many different ways, we have endeavoured to help the people of all of the nations that have been affected. The loss of life has been terrible in all, not least of course, the terrible loss of life in Indonesia, our nearest neighbour. And this is an occasion when we pay respect to the beliefs of all nations and of all peoples, and today perhaps I could stretch back to include Friday because Friday is the traditional day of the week for Muslim religious observants, this day of Mourning and Reflection has enabled Australians of all different faiths and indeed and people who have no faith at all, to share in a moment of mourning and reflection. But can I pay tribute to the contribution of your community to our nation. Can I pay tribute to the goodness of the values and beliefs of your religion.

Today is the traditional day of the week of course of Christian religious observants, but it's an occasion when people of all different faiths come together, they remind themselves of the shared values, of caring for and showing compassion towards the suffering of our fellow human beings. It is an occasion to pay tribute to the ongoing work of the men and women of the Australian defence forces, of our medical and paramedical workers, of all of the members of the Australian consular service and public service who have worked so wonderfully over the past three weeks in response to this terrible tragedy. May I conclude again, by expressing for myself and all of the Australian nation, my great sympathy and condolences to any in this audience who have lost loved ones or friends in distant countries but counties that I know mean so much to you and are still very much in your hearts. The world has passed through a very grim three weeks. It's a terrible reminder of the brutal force of nature, but it's also been an opportunity to again be inspired by the that wonderful capacity of mankind to respond without discrimination and across the divides of race and religion and background, to relieve suffering and to offer a helping hand and no nation has better exemplified any more, let me put it that way, because all nations have helped, none has exemplified it more than our own nation, and I thank you for what you have done.

And to all you, my fellow Australians, I thank you for your contribution and I wish you and your community every happiness and every success in this country in the years ahead, thank you.

Transcript 21584