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A time to reflect on what we have, where we want to be and where we have all come from - Bruce Mellett, Australia Day Ambassador

Posted on May 10 2020

Pictured is Mayor Robert Walsh and Bruce Mellett Australia Day Ambassador with Australia Day Award winners Tony 'Jack' Kaden, Declan Crabb and Robert McFarlane. 

The following blog post was the Australia Day speech given by Bruce Mellett on 26 January 2020 in the District Council of Franklin Harbour.

Australia Day – is it really such a big deal? Is it worth celebrating? Personally yes, I think a national day of celebration is a great anchor point – so that we can reflect & think about how truly privileged we are – to look at the bigger picture in a hectic, chaotic world where we are often more concerned about our profile on Facebook and why our latest friend request went unanswered than the issue of daily survival – this year especially has been driven home by the terrible bushfires – and perhaps that is the underlying unification of this day – to celebrate the incredible Australian spirit, unwavering resilience and above all – our wonderful and unbridled generosity to help our fellow Australians in times of critical need.

So what is this day – Australia Day. For some of you today it will be the generosity of your local council to provide the breakfast, for some it will be the superb cooking skills of the local service club, for some it will be a chance to meet friends and for others it will be to support and celebrate the amazing contributions to your community by selfless volunteers and individuals and we will hear from them a little later this morning. But today is also a time to reflect on our shared history – yes Australian history – that it is so important to embrace and cherish and that history reaches back 60-70,000 years,  today is also a day to be so excited about our future dreams,  and the enormous potential we have as a world leader in so many facets from arts, sport, science and innovation.. and through it all – our unique Oz humour and understatement – those scorching Summer days are…a bit warm, this hideous unrelenting drought has been… a bit dry.

I know this date is contentious for some and this controversy seems to grow by the year but debate is healthy, embrace it and seek out all the opinions, let’s not sit back in our respective silos or rage in the digital anonymity of social media. As a young child growing up Australia Day had no meaning, it was a day thrown onto a weekend – for me Australia Day was synonymous as Holiday Monday. So I feel it is imperative that we have a national day when we can ALL come together to recognise all that it is so great about being Australian. A day when we can EACH and EVERY one of us, stand as one, proud to call this nation our home. To celebrate all those great things that make us Australian. A nation which has raised half a billion dollars in bushfire fundraising in less than a month– the bulk of that is small donations from everyday Aussies. In the history of Facebook, Celeste Barber’s fundraising efforts have created all sorts of records… for me it is this spontaneous outpouring of community spirit that is exactly what Australia Day represents.

It is said we are a young country, but that is not true – a young nation yes, but geographically we are one of the oldest places on earth, we are home to the oldest surviving civilisation on the planet and that is just remarkable. 

The bottom line is we are all boat people, we are all immigrants to Australia. The First Australians knew it – they came in small canoes, island hopping 60-70,000 years ago and they saw, what we all see – what an amazing bountiful place this really is. And they did it all without GPS or Siri!! They posted relentlessly on Facebook, took selfies on Instagram but the network was down – yes, remarkably even back then NBN had issues - and didn’t get fixed for another 60,000 plus years!! And when it was, wow didn’t the world catch on quick! The Dutch came first, then the Portuguese, then the English, French and  wave after wave of migration has followed. The Migrants saw what the First Australians saw – a lucky country full of promise, of hope and opportunity of untold wealth in our land as well as in our shared culture and social fabric.

We are often called THE lucky country, and we are but I wonder how many here today can truly appreciate just how lucky we really are. Our own Governor Hieu Van Le fled the war in his home country of Vietnam as a refugee in the 70’s. He, his wife and 40 others risked their life crammed into a tiny boat to come to Australia. His is a story of remarkable courage but also speaks of the immense risk to come thousands of kilometres on the chance of a better life. He openly speaks of his luck in coming to Australia – but it is reciprocal – as much our luck for meeting him as his for finding us. He has given back to Australia way more and he continues to do so.

We should be proud today – proud to be Australian and all that stands for but let us not buy into the recent rise of nationalism.

Celebrate today, not because we are lucky, not because we wear green and gold – yes we should applaud ALL our cultural, sporting and academic successes,  but we should celebrate because we have woven a rich fabric of diversity from all the peoples that have come here – creating a melting pot that remains the envy of most other countries…. Australia is something very unique, a great melded society where there’s freedom, opportunity and potential. We have survived wars, depressions, droughts, cyclones, floods and fires because of our strength and unity. We are stronger together, the sum of all our parts.

Celebrate that current and past generations have forged such a strong belief in community, in helping others with greater need and digging deep with either financial or physical help when we fall on tough times. Above all else today -  Oz Day is about the strong significance to this local community, here in Cowell and the District Council of Franklin Harbour, where we all celebrate the achievements, the commitment and the bucketloads of generosity of people right here in this community that each and every day enhance and empower us. Because by making this, your community richer and stronger you are also making Australia bigger, better, brighter. Happy Australia Day – enjoy and above all else reflect on what we have, where we want to be and where we have all come from – 70,000 years and counting!

For more information about the Australia Day Ambassador program click here  

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