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Opening of the 'A show 2000' for the Down Syndrome Associations of Australia, Sydney, Thursday, 23 March 2000: address on the occasion.

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During the more than four years that I have b een Governor-General of Australia, my wife, Helen, and I have been privileged to have close contact with a very large number of organisations and institutions working in the interests of those with special needs.   There has been no contact which we have valued more than that with people - particularly young people - with Down Syndrome and those who work in their interests.  


That association has taken a number of forms.   Each year, for example, we make a point of entertaining young people with Down Synd rome at functions at both Government House in Canberra and Admiralty House here in Sydney.   In Canberra, we have, for the past two years, opened the annual Photographic Competition and Exhibition staged by the ACT Down Syndrome Association, celebrating the qualities and abilities of young people with Down Syndrome.   Again, we were privileged to be present, here in Sydney, at a function a little time ago, celebrating the achievement by Jobsupport of having placed no less than 300 people with some intellectual disadvantage, many of them people with Down Syndrome, in permanent and continuing employment.


Inevitably, we have derived great personal pleasure from those occasions.   Hopefully, we have given a little encouragement by our support.   Most importantly, we learnt a great deal about the people - particularly the young people - with that extra 21 st chromosome.


We have learnt about their talents, their charm, their wit … and their beauty, the beauty of their eyes and of their smile.   About their reliab ility and the contribution they can make to a workplace and to the attitude of others working with them in it.   We have learnt about how much they contribute to life and to love.   And about their justified pleasure and pride in their abilities and achievements.


And, of course, we have also learnt about their vulnerability.   That vulnerability is a constant reminder of how important it is that we acknowledge their qualities and abilities and express our pride in them and their achievements.   It is important not only to people with Down Syndrome and those who are particularly concerned to serve and protect their interests.   It is important to our nation as a whole.   For, as you all know, people with Down Syndrome constitute a very significant segment of our community - approaching one in six hundred.   And the ultimate test of the worth of any truly democratic nation such as ours is surely, as I have often said, how it treats the most vulnerable of its citizens.


It should be apparent from what I have said that I regard the Art Exhibition which we are gathered to open - The A Show 2000 - as a very significant event.   Indeed, so significant that, notwithstanding that we are in a very busy period at Government House in Canberra, I have come down to Sydney this morning especially to open it.  


For one thing, the Exhibition is being held in conjunction with the 7 th World Down Syndrome Congress - a most important international Congress serving and advancing the interests of people with Down Syndrome.   Needless to say, the Congress has my enthusiastic best wishes and support.   I speak for all Australians when I extend a warm welcome to our overseas visitors attending the Congress and express the sincere hope that the Congress is in every way an outstanding success. 


For another thing, the Exhibition itself does some things which I have mentioned as being of such importance.   It acknowledges and displays the qualities and the abilities of people with Down Syndrome in a most dramatic way.   Indeed, it provides yet another illustration of the valuable contribution which people with Down Syndrome can and do make to our society.   The real value of these pictures does not lie in the therapy or recreational activity that painting them provided the artist or in the fact that they were painted by artists with Down Syndrome.   Those facts are important.   But the paintings themselves are deserving of appreciation and admiration because of the objective artistic merit possessed by each and every one of them.   That being so, the Exhibition helps bring home to us all how important each of these artists is as a member of our community.   It also brings home to us the pride which we should, as a community, have in them and their achievements.


Let me conclude these comments by sincerely congratulating all associated with the preparation and staging of the Exhibition.   I mention, in particular, the Down Syndrome Association of Victoria and Arts Project Australia and all associated with them.  Most important, however, I acknowledge and congratulate all the artists, aged from 18 to 50, whose works are included in the 36 outstanding paintings which constitute the Exhibition.   They have much to be proud of and we have every reason to be proud of them.


And now, with great pleasure, I declare the Art Exhibition, The A Show 2000 , to be officially open.