Message by Ambassador Amanda Gorely
at the Australia Day 2016 Reception
26 January 2016
- The Honourable Albert del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs
- His Excellency Christian Vihruri, Ambassador of Papua New Guinea, Australia’s close neighbour and friend and Vice Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
- Distinguished members of Cabinet and Congress
- Fellow Members of the Diplomatic Corps
- Friends from the Consular Corps, the Australia and Filipino business communities and the media
- Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening and thank you for joining us for Australia Day 2016.
This is my first Australia Day in the Philippines and it feels very special to be here in the year of the 70th Anniversary of our bilateral relations. I arrived here nearly three weeks ago and I have been humbled by the warm and heartfelt welcome that I have received from everyone that I have met.
Australia is a relatively young nation and it is customary on Australia Day to ponder what it means to be Australian. Australians are not particularly nationalistic and I often feel more Australian when I am overseas. There is something about singing the national anthem when you are representing your country overseas which has a special poignancy.
Similarly, so-called traditional Aussie food which one eats only occasionally at home is consumed with gusto overseas. Since arriving here, I’ve eaten pavlova, lamingtons, a couple of snags (or sausages) on the barbie and vegemite on my toast! I should add that I’ve also eaten some exceptional Australian beef and lamb rivalled only by delicious Filipino lechon.
The strengths of my country and indeed some of its weaknesses also seem in higher resolution when I am overseas. And while Australia Day is increasingly a day of reflection and, at times, controversy, in the short time I have been here, I have been frequently reminded of what makes me proud to be an Australian.
I would like to acknowledge the rich culture and heritage of the first Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
I had the pleasure last night to attend the opening of a thought-provoking exhibition of contemporary Australian indigenous art, entitled Octoroon. One of the artists, Stephen Rhall, is here tonight, as are a number of indigenous students and educators. One of them, Dr Mark Rose, is a direct relative of the first indigenous Australian to be named Australian of the Year in 1968 – the world champion boxer Lionel Rose.
When we Australians question who we are, there is no single answer. In addition to our indigenous people, we are also a nation of first, second and third generation migrants. My own family migrated to Australia when I was a child.
Yesterday, I had the honour of performing a ceremony conferring Australian citizenship on a young woman from Cambodia who has chosen to call Australia home. She is just one of the over 215,000 migrants, including more than 25,000 refugees, that Australia welcomes each year.
Over 250,000 Filipinos now live in Australia, many of them dual nationals, enriching both of their countries of allegiance in countless ways.
Similarly, the Australian companies investing and doing business in the Philippines are contributing economic and social benefits to both countries through employment, innovation, technology, infrastructure, competition and community support.
To highlight one example, last weekend I participated in a fun run organised by one of these Australia companies, the proceeds of which go to support a local school. And Filipino companies are increasingly investing in Australia, creating similar benefits for Australian communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we mark Australia Day, the familiar summer sights and sounds of the Australian Open Tennis tournament can be seen on our TVs. It is undeniable that most Australians are crazy about sports – a trait we have in common with the people of the Philippines and indeed the people of all countries.
But modern Australia is a multifaceted country with world class scientists, performers, designers and creative thinkers. This was reinforced to me last week at the opening of a new facility at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños. This state of the art laboratory, funded by Australia, is named in honour of a pre-eminent Australian plant scientist, Dr Lloyd Evans. Dr Evans contributed so much in his lifetime to the advancement of rice science, the staple food source of the Philippines and other countries in this region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In November 2015, Prime Minister Turnbull and President Aquino signed a Comprehensive Partnership Joint Declaration between Australia and the Philippines. This will provide the framework to broaden and deepen our already strong collaboration in defence, security, law enforcement, education, development assistance and disaster preparedness. Realising the potential of this Declaration is a high priority for me during my time in the Philippines.
It is indeed an exciting time to be Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines.
It is now my honour to now to invite you to raise your glass in a toast:
- To his Excellency President Benigno S Aquino III,
- To the health and prosperity of the Filipino people,
- And to the special friendship between Australia and the Philippines.
Happy Australia Day!