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Address at the luncheon for the Australian of the Year finalists and sponsors, Canberra.

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● Ms Lisa Curry Kenny, Chairman, National Australia Day Council

● 2004 Australians of the Year

● Finalists of this year’s awards

● The Honourable Peter McGauran, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs

● Distinguished guests

● Ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon, and welcome, everyone, to Government House, and again our sincere thanks to Lisa Curry Kenny, Andrew Metcalf and the Australia Day Council for their outstanding work in making Australia Day the very special celebration it has become in the national agenda.

Marlena and I are delighted to your hosts in the lead-up to this evening’s announcement.

Most of all, we’re very proud to have with us at this lunch so many outstanding Australians.

The 2004 Australians of the Year present today - Steve Waugh, Tehree Gordon and Donna Carson - have conducted themselves splendidly over the past year.

For example, they’ve spoken about numeracy and literacy for young children (an issue close to my heart), visited schools, hospitals and attended numerous public events, pursued environmental causes, and raised awareness about domestic violence and burns survival.

May I just say a word about the calibre of our remarkable 2004 Young Australian of the Year, Hugh Evans. Hugh has not been able to join us today - he has just returned from Banda Aceh, and tomorrow flies to Africa again, where he is leading a group of young people assisting in aid and educational projects. We wish him every success in his remarkable work.

Thank you to our nominees for the work you do in your communities, the service you give, the dedication you show, the energy you bring, and the fine example you are to others.

Your work has included for example:

● humanitarian aid work, and assisting with the restoration of democracy in overseas war zones;

● providing aerial medical services for financially needy people;

● sharing expertise and experience with schools and community groups;

● developing a unique spray on skin for use in burns units;

● creating legends in wood chopping;

● inspiring women to lead in engineering and military careers; and

● creating mentoring programs in aboriginal communities.

That desire to be involved underpins the philosophy of the Australian of the Year Awards. And it’s well expressed in the astute words of one commentator who noted:

“Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous army of the world’s ills…..against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each can work to change a small portion of events and, in the total of all these acts will be written the history (that matters).”

The so-called ‘average’ Australians who contribute to their communities without thought of personal reward, are what might be called, ‘the enablers’ and ‘enrichers’ of society.

Indeed, we’ve all seen in so many compelling ways since Boxing Day the extraordinarily swift and continuing contribution of Australians to the victims of the tsunami devastation, and indeed the South Australian bushfires. How comprehensively have so many Australians entered the lives of many thousands of affected individuals and their communities, both abroad and at home.

So much of what is being done is voluntarily given. And this is one of the themes of my national Australia Day address to be broadcast tomorrow evening.

I see volunteers (and we have about 4.3 million in this country) as the lynchpin in maintaining an Australian ethos of service; maintaining community life that is strong - strong in the sense of being cohesive and mutually supporting.

What I see woven through the contributions of volunteers is the living concept of service above self; a strong sense of duty; and the linkage of two wonderful Australian characteristics; “having a go” (pitching in without counting the cost) and belief in “a fair go” (justice and fair play).

Ladies and gentlemen. Marlena and I greatly admire what our entrants have achieved in reaching the finalist stage of the 2005 Australian of the Year awards.

For some, you have given a lifetime of service, others are well along the road, and our young Australians, who have already achieved so much, know they have plenty in reserve. To all of you I extend my encouragement and thanks for your magnificent service and contribution to our country.

So every good wish for this evening.

And, Marlena and I hope that Australia Day tomorrow is a memorable and happy time for you, and that the year ahead is both rewarding and fulfilling.

Thank you.