Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen – G’day!!! What a crowd!!!
I’d like to begin with some acknowledgements -
- Hon Teodoro Locsin Jr, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs
- Hon Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice
- Current and former Senators, members of Congress and Justices of the Supreme Court.
- The Chair and members of the Commission on Human Rights and the Governor and senior officials from the Central Bank.
I’d also like to acknowledge, distinguished representatives from the Philippine government, the diplomatic corps, the business sector and civil society. And of course my fellow Australians!!
Welcome everyone to this celebration of Australia Day. It is also a celebration of the deep ties of friendship between the Philippines and Australia.
As you know, I’ve now been in the Philippines for a little over a year and so far I’ve been fortunate to have visited some 24 Provinces.
One of the things that has really resonated with me is the similarity in some of the characteristics of Filipinos and Australians.
One of these characteristics is resilience. We both have really resilient people.
And I believe that is because both the Philippines and Australia are countries prone to natural disasters.
Just in the past month the Philippines has had Typhoon Ursula and the eruption of the Taal volcano.
In Australia we’ve had drought, bushfires, and now floods.
Of course, this is not new.
Our own indigenous people (our First Australians – with whom we celebrate tonight) have confronted drought and fire for tens of thousands of years.
And the peoples of the Philippines have also confronted typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions over thousands of years.
In such adversity, we stand together – the Philippines and Australia - quietly supporting one another, in good times and bad.
I’ve been really touched by the outpouring of concern for Australia with the bushfires;
- the offers of assistance, the prayers, the letters offering comfort and practical support, from the government, from Provincial Governors and Mayors (as far away as Davao and Zamboanga), organisations like the Red Cross, and people all around the country, It really has been overwhelming.
It matters a lot to us to know who your friends are when the chips are down.
So thank you to the Philippines. We really appreciate it.
Many of you have asked what you can do to help. The answer is simple: go to Australia for your next holiday. The continent is vast, there’s much to explore, and most of it totally unaffected by the bushfires.
And just outside the ballroom tonight we have a stand being run by our wonderful Australian alumni for anyone who would like to contribute to help those who have suffered in Australia AND the Philippines.
Ladies and Gentlemen - All this collaboration demonstrates, what we call in Australia, the spirit of mateship, and what our Filipino friends know as baya nihan.
That spirit was here over 75 years ago when we fought side by side for the liberation of the Philippines - in Leyte, the Surigao Straits, and at the Allied landing in Lingayen.
And it’s still here today - our defence and security relationship is rock solid.
We also have strong personal bonds.
Over 300,000 Filipinos now call Australia home – the fifth largest diaspora in our country.
Filipino-Australian talent is also everywhere on stage and screen.
And on that note, I’m delighted to have Ms Catriona Gray, Miss Universe 2018, here with us tonight.
Education also builds our links and we have many alumni present.
We’re proud that Australia is the No.1 destination of choice for Filipinos who choose to study overseas.
Business too is prominent and I am a passionate advocate for the trade and commercial relationship.
There are well over 300 Australian companies operating in the Philippines, many of them represented here tonight, employing over 44,000 Filipinos.
I’m also pleased that Philippine businesses have seized opportunities in Australia too – San Miguel, SM, ICTSI, and many others, are going strongly.
And, Ladies and Gentlemen, it won’t be long until we see a Jollibee store in Sydney.
So - these are just some of the highlights of the Australian story that we celebrate tonight - in a relationship that truly is best described as ‘mateship and baya nihan’.
It is now my honour to invite you to raise your glasses in a toast:
· To his Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
· To the Health and Prosperity of the Filipino people
· And to the enduring friendship between Australia and the Philippines. Mabuhay and Happy Australia Day!
Ladies and Gentlemen – It is now my distinct honour to invite Ms Catriona Gray – Miss Universe for 2018 – and a proud Filipino Australian, to say a few words.
Ms Gray is an advocate of Young Focus and Love Yourself – an organisation that promotes HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention. She also supports Smile Train – a charity that helps children with cleft and lip palates. And just recently she organised a fundraising campaign to help children achieve their smile.
Ms Catriona Gray -