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Australia Day address, 26 January 1998: transcript.

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Government House Canberra ACT 2600




Embargo: 12 Noon, Monday, 26 January, 1998

Australia Day is a time both to look back at the events'bf the past year, and to look forward with hope to

the year ahead. ^ - < "

Looking back, there have been some occasions of profound sadness. But even in sadness there lias

been wonder at the goodness of Australians and their readiness to help people in need. As a nation, we were

united in grief for those killed in last winter's landslide at Thredbo At the same time we were moved by

admiration and gratitude for the bravery, the skill and the determination of all involved in the rescue operations

There has been the same mixture of sorrow over the death and destruction caused by tliis summer's

bush fires, and pride in the courage of those who have fought them, sometimes, tragically, at the cost of their

own lives. And again, last month, we were reminded of a defining point in our nation s history when Ted

Matthews, the last original Anzac. died at the age of 101.

The past 12 months also brought to the fore many wonderful tilings about our country and the

generosity of Australians 1 want to make special mention of one of them.

In late September. Helen and I attended the opening of the World Transplant Games in Sidney, where

1200 sportsmen and women who had received organ or tissue transplants gathered to compete It was a

celebration of courage and compassion Courage by the recipients who had triumphed ox er great adversity.

And the extraordinary compassion of the donors and their families who. despite their own loss and sadness, had

made that triumph possible

Thus, in 19%. almost 200 Australian donors gave health and survival to 675 people There are.

however, still around 3000 Australian men. women and children on organ and tissue waiting lists. Sadly, a

significant number of them w ill die before a suitable transplant becomes available.

1 know there are some Australians who have religious or other objections to organ and tissue

transplants. We must respect these objections

But 1 sincerely hope the World Transplant Games will encourage more of us who have no such

objections to become organ donors ... most importantly by talking about it with our families, making our wishes

known, and perhaps, in places where this is possible, endorsing our driver's licence to that effect.

Looking forward, on lliis Australia Day. we are reminded that we're now only a few short years away

from two momentous events for our country' The first is the year 2000 Olympic Games when Australia will be

on show to the whole world. Tire second is the centenary of our nation on 1 January 2001 when, in a sense,

we ll be on show to ourselves

In the meantime, there arc some fundamental issues which we must face together as a nation

Among them are the constitutional questions to be debated at the Convention in Canberra next month

I don't propose to discuss the substance of those questions But I would express the sincere hope that the

national debate will be marked by mutual tolerance, respect and understanding on the part of all involved. That

w ay we will ensure dial the cpsl of constitutional deliberations and decisions is not national disunity

Another matter we must address in the lead up to 2001 is reconciliation between the Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander peoples and llie Australian nation as a whole As many of you know. I regard

reconciliation as essential if we are not to enter our second century as a diminished nation. And by that I mean

healing the physical and spiritual wounds and divisions of tire past and going forward together as friends and true


Let me stress that, irrespective of particular issues of current debate, the overall objective of

reconciliation as part of the celebration of 100 years of the Australian nation is shared by all our mainstream

political parties. 1 firmly believe that provided there is genuine goodwill on all sides, it is possible to achieve a

true, just and lasting reconciliation by 2001 My wish on lliis Australia Day and for the year ahead is that such

goodwill prevails

May God bless you all