Australia Day

26 January 2015

127 days to go

Australia Day Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony Canberra

I begin by honouring the traditional owners of this country upon which we gather, and in the same spirit of friendship, I greet all Indigenous Australians.

On this day above all days, I honour and recognise your ancient cultures, your unbroken story of pride and endurance, and your continuing connection to this land.

And in a spirit of Reconciliation, I pledge my untiring efforts to build a nation in which all Australians walk in dignity and equality together.

On this day of celebration and affirmation, I acknowledge the outstanding work of the National Australia Day Council in bringing Australia Day festivities to all Australians.

And I extend a very warm welcome to everyone gathered here today in our national capital in the centenary year of its founding.

I greet those of you about to become citizens and those who have come in support.

Not just friends and family but those local residents and visitors who have chosen to celebrate their Australia Day by sharing your first Australia Day.

In 1949, my great predecessor, Prime Minister Chifley, officiated at the inaugural Australian citizenship ceremony.

It was held here in Canberra, and seven aspiring Australians read the new pledge that swore them to ‘bear faithful and true allegiance’ to King George VI and his successors.

Today in 430 ceremonies across Australia, a record number of people – more than 17,000 – are taking the pledge of citizenship.

The words of the pledge have changed and so has our nation.

Since that day in 1949 more than four million people, drawn from every nation in the world, have chosen to swear their loyalty to Australia.

And I am proud to be one of those four million.

As migrants, we did not just adopt a new country.

We helped transform and enrich it.

And together, as new Australians and old, we made this experiment work.

My colleague, Penny Wong, has used the term “muscular multiculturalism” to describe how it was done.

In this concept of multiculturalism, our nation is not just a patchwork of identities and backgrounds.

Ours is a land where flag and oath, mateship and fairness, work and opportunity, are open to all and embraced by all.

In this way, our multiculturalism is revealed not as an ornament, but as an organising principle not as a decorative feature of our society but as a decisive element in our national success.

This is true nation-building – firm in the faith that Australia’s best days lie ahead and firmly determined to make those days possible through the loyal, productive lives we lead and the national purpose we share.

As migrants we have come from many places and on many pathways.

Whether yours was a flight across the Tasman that lasted hours or a flight from persecution that lasted years, those journeys measured in time and distance are over now.

A new journey – a journey of the heart and spirit – can begin.

It begins in the words of citizenship today and it continues in a lifetime of deeds here on this ancient soil.

This is your new country, and you’ll never want another.

Welcome to citizenship.

Welcome to Australia.

Welcome home.