Speech - Australian of the Year Awards Ceremony - 2018

January 25, 2018


Yoonggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngoonawal dhowrrra.

Wanggarra lin jin yin marunn bulaan boogarabung.

We’re gathered here tonight in the Great Hall of the Australian Parliament on the land of the Ngunnawal people and we pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

It’s wonderful to be here on the eve of Australia Day, when we celebrate all that is great about our nation and its people.

Our Australian of the Year State and Territory recipients are shining examples of our best selves.

All of them are outstanding and brilliant achievers and driven to succeed by a determination to help their fellow Australians and make Australia an even, better, brighter place to realise your dreams.

Whether through science or philanthropy, medicine or mentoring, their lives have made our lives better.

And they are as diverse as the nation they represent.

Our nation is ancient and modern; as old as the 65,000 years of continuous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander civilization and as young as the baby in the arms of its migrant mother.

Tonight’s Australian of the Year State and Territory recipients remind us yet again that our diversity is our strength.

They include First Australians, migrants and refugees.

They range from 17 years of age to 94, reminding us that Australia’s generosity, leadership and ingenuity are not confined to one generation, but rather fostered from one generation to the next.

And they cross the spectrum of endeavor. From sports, education and the arts to community, business, science and medicine and much more.

Tonight they’re rightly celebrated, but this moment of glory has often taken years of hard work and dedication.

Our 2017 Australian of the Year, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim spent 20 years—20 years—researching nasal stem cells before he led a successful world-first human clinical trial in Brisbane. Alan is a man who has battled injury and illness in his own life and stretched the boundaries of science to cure it in others. Thank you Alan, for using the platform as Australian of the Year to travel the country and advocate for science and innovation. From classrooms to boardrooms, you have done a marvelous job putting a spotlight on these vitally important subjects, so critical to meeting and beating the challenges of the future.

All our 2017 winners share that spirit of patience and persistence.

Senior Australian of the Year, Sister Anne Gardiner, Young Australian of the Year, Paul Vasileff and Australia’s Local Hero, Vicki Jellie.

All our finalists tonight have that spirit in abundance too. But above all, you remind us that we are at our best when we work to help others.

On behalf of our nation, I congratulate you all and I wish everyone a very, very happy Australia Day for tomorrow.


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