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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 568


Senator BILYK (6:45 PM) —I rise tonight to speak on Australia Day and citizenship and how important that is for Australia, especially with regard to my home state of Tasmania. I will refer specifically to some of the southern municipalities and events that took place on Australia Day, as they were some of those that I could attend.

Australia celebrates its national day on 26 January. It is a very important day. It is the day when we welcome new citizens to this country. This year on Australia Day, almost 300 Tasmanians became Australian citizens. They were part of a record 16,698 people, from 130 countries, taking the pledge to become Australian citizens across the nation. These people join approximately four million migrants from 200 countries who have made the decision to uproot their lives and start again in Australia.

Our new citizens have come to Australia for many reasons, but, to put it simply, they have come here because they think Australia will provide them with a happy, safe and better life. They want a home where freedom of speech is not only allowed but encouraged. They want a home that provides them with the opportunity to get an education and achieve their dreams, whatever they may be. They want a home where they feel they belong.

We should feel honoured that there are so many people wanting to join us as Australians. Australia is the country it is today because of its diversity. There are people who were born here and there are those who came from abroad. There are people who came to escape war and poverty and those who had a safe home but were still intrigued by the Australian way of life. There are people who arrived in Australia as children and those who joined us later in life. We are all different but we share one thing: our love for Australia.

Becoming an Australian citizen is an important commitment. As part of the citizenship ceremony, a pledge to Australia is taken to affirm a person’s commitment and loyalty to the nation. As an Australian citizen, a person must obey the law, defend Australia if necessary, serve on a jury if requested and vote at federal, state and territory elections and referendums. They have the right to apply to work in the Australian Public Service, join the Australian Defence Force or, indeed, be elected as a member of parliament. In the parliament there are a number of members and senators who were not born in Australia. Australian citizens can also apply for an Australian passport, re-enter Australia freely and register children born overseas as Australian citizens by descent. Consular assistance is available for people experiencing difficulties while overseas if they are Australian citizens.

Australia Day is always an exciting day with a variety of events taking place as people reflect on our great nation, as it is today, following the changes that have occurred, and as it will change into the future. This year, I had the honour of representing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Hon. Chris Evans, at the Kingborough Council Australia Day awards and citizenship ceremony. Thirty-four people became citizens. They hail from countries such as China, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Canada, the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom. The citizenship ceremony was followed by the council’s Australia Day awards and then a morning tea, where I had the opportunity to meet the new citizens and recipients of the Australia Day awards. I thank the Kingborough Council for all the work they put into this event. I also thank those who worked behind the scenes to ensure that all went smoothly.

Following these events, I attended the Kingston Beach regatta, known now as ‘A Day on the Beach’, which was very well attended with an estimated 10,000 people expected to attend throughout the day. This was the third year this event had been held. It included activities such as competitive sandcastle building, tug of war, kayaking, beach cricket, volleyball and soccer, as well as a concert. Access to all of these things was free, making it a very popular event and allowing everyone in the community to join in.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Stuart Harris and Brendan Charles, the chairman and the secretary of the volunteer group, who worked tirelessly for months before and on the day to make sure this event was even better than in 2009. They are already working towards running this event in 2011. I thank all the people who contributed in so many ways. I say a very sincere thankyou to those people for believing in and supporting their local community. It is undoubtedly a fantastic way to bring people together and, to me, it encapsulates the true meaning of community.

I had the privilege for the second year in a row to be asked to judge the Tasmanian Cricket Association’s classic catches competition. This was great fun. Along with Chris Rawson and some members of the Tasmanian Cricket Club, we managed to choose the winners. Basically, the entrants had three balls batted to them—one high, one low and the third one of their choice—and we judged the catch technique, including how entertaining the catch was and whether the ball was caught or dropped. We also took into account different age groups. This year there were a number of entrants in that competition. The eldest participant this year was only 14. We had many young children taking part, getting out on the beach and having a great day. It encapsulated what it means to be Australian. We had great fun. I thank the Tasmanian Cricket Association for their input on the day.

I was also invited to the Clarence City Council Australia Day awards and citizenship ceremony. I was unfortunately unable to attend, but I would like to acknowledge that the Clarence municipality welcomed 16 new citizens to its community and the nearby Huon Valley Council welcomed nine new citizens. These awards recognised the huge efforts put into the community by people who want to help others, to ensure that they live in a place where people care for others as well as encouraging the new immigrants to take that final step and become Australian citizens. The Huon Valley Mayor, Robert Armstrong, said it all when he stated: ‘I know that many of you do your work without seeking recognition. But what you do makes a real and important difference and for that we thank you.’

Awards included Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Junior Citizen of the Year, as well as acknowledging volunteer work. As an example, I mention Sophie Allwright. Sophie is only 15 years old and she was recognised as the Huon Valley Council’s Young Citizen of the Year. Sophie is involved in Scouts, and is always willing to help out her leader and to help the younger members. She is involved in National Tree Planting Day and Clean Up Australia Day, and she is also on the student representative council at her school. Sophie also has a younger brother with Down syndrome and has become actively involved with the Down Syndrome Association. It is wonderful to know that young people such as Sophie are so committed to achieving their best in all aspects of their lives. Our community is certainly in safe hands as we move to the future in the next generation.

I would like to quickly mention Hobart City Council too. Hobart City Council’s Citizen of the Year award went to Mr Nicola Ranalli. His award was for his hard work and dedication to the Italian community in Hobart, including fostering a sister city relationship between Hobart and L’Aquilla. Mr RanaIli was responsible for raising more than $50,000 for L’Aquilla last year following the devastating earthquake there. Mr Ranalli is a wonderful role model to others.

Another fantastic role model is Clarence City Council’s Citizen of the Year, Sydney McClymont. Mr McClymont is a former police officer, and was recognised for more than 35 years work with the community on Hobart’s eastern shore, including charity. I congratulate Sophie, Nicola, Sydney and all the others who were recognised by their local councils.

Of course, we had Tasmania’s Australia Day honours, so to everyone who received honours—Order of Australia Medals, Officer of the Order of Australia Medals and Member of the Order of Australia Medals—I offer my congratulations. Tasmania has some wonderful attributes, but I think the best attribute that Tasmania has is its people, and the people that make up the community of Tasmania.