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Transcript of remarks at the Australian Migration and Settlement Award: Parliament House, Canberra: 22 March 2017

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22 March 2017

Remarks at the Australian Migration and Settlement Award

Parliament House, Canberra



Thank you very much Innes and it’s wonderful to be here.

Carla Wilshire, the Chief Executive of the Migration Council of Australia.

His Excellency Hieu Van Le, the Governor of South Australia.

My parliamentary colleagues, so many here but let me single out if I may - Peter Dutton, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Employment, Arthur Sinodinos, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, Craig Laundy, the Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Zed Seselja, the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs. Of course, Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition who is joined by Tony Burke, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs and, of course, Richard Di Natale is also with us, the Leader of the Greens.

What a wonderful, extraordinary acknowledgement of country that we saw earlier. That was fantastic - let’s give it another round of applause.


We are here on the land of the Ngunnawal people and so let me say in their language - Yanggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngunawal dhawra. Wanggarralijinyin mariny bulan bugarabang.

We are gathered on the land of the Ngunnawal people, we acknowledge and honour their elders.

In 1964, Donald Horne wrote that ‘Australia may be something of a mirror to the world, a mirror of what the world is likely to become.’

What that post-war mirror showed, the world then was a resounding multicultural success story.

And today Australia truly reflects the faces of all the peoples of the world who look to us.

But more than a mirror, we are also a lesson in harmony and security amidst diversity.

As so many parts of the world grapple with unprecedented movements of people, and consider how to integrate different races, religions and cultures, Australia continues to show how it can be done.

We are the most successful multicultural society in the world and it’s a badge we wear with pride.

In a time of tension and conflict and challenge right around the world, in a time when people who have lived together in relative harmony or centuries seem no longer be able to do so, Australia shines the light towards a better way.

After Luxembourg and Switzerland, we have the third-highest proportion of immigrants in the OECD.

More than one in four Australians were born overseas. And more than 45 per cent of us have a parent who was.

We are the custodians of millions of migrant stories, each building on the ancient and proud cultural inheritance of our First Australians, each adding strength to our nation’s fabric.

My own family tells a few of those stories—a sailor on the Sirius who landed at Sydney Cove, staunch Scots who built a chapel on the Hawkesbury, and a pair of actors in the cast of Showboat who chose our southern sunshine over the gloom of Depression England.

By way of disaster, conflict or, as was the case for my family, simply the lure of a better life, waves of people from all corners of the globe—of all faiths and cultures—have come here to live together, as Australians under the Southern Cross.

Our lives, our nation would be unimaginable without their ambition and spirit.

Could we picture, I wonder, a modern Haberfield or Leichhardt without the imprint of generations of proud Italians? A Cabramatta with no ‘Little Vietnam’? Melbourne or Melvoúrni, the Athens of the South, without one of the largest Greek populations outside of Europe in the world?

A child today growing up among migrant populations old and new sees the world as it is—full of diversity, brimming with culture - a place where we see value in our differences. All of us are enriched by the cultures of our neighbours. All of us, and I think Australians remarkably more than any other nation I have struck in the world have an extraordinary cultural curiosity.

We are fascinated by the diversity in which we live and we are all enriched by it, we are strengthened by it.

We are proud of the role immigration has played in shaping the Australia we love so much.

From the 100,000 men and women from 30 different countries, some of whom only a few years before had been at war with each other, who toiled to build the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme, or the hundreds of thousands of other post-war ‘New Australians’ whose hands built our roads, railways and ports, to the millions of skilled migrants who have over more recent decades come from Europe, Asia, Africa and all corners of the world to lend us the skills and the expertise our economy has needed to grow.

All contributing to the evolution and progress of Australia. All advancing Australia fair.

Generations of immigrants have placed their faith in Australia because Australia has placed its faith in them.

This two-way faith goes to the heart of our success - the idea that we stand side-by-side as Australians not bound or defined by race, religion or culture, but by our shared belief in democracy, the rule of law, and a fair go.

No matter where we have come from, we are Australian. Proud of our histories, proud of our cultural inheritance but Australians first and foremost. And an example to the world.

At a time of growing global tensions and rising uncertainty, we remain a steadfast example of a harmonious, egalitarian and enterprising nation, which embraces its diversity.

We are united in the knowledge that our national security - a resolute determination to defend our nation, our people and our values - is the foundation on which our freedoms have been built and maintained.

And this evolutionary thread is strengthened with each newcomer.

On Monday I was delighted to launch the Government’s Statement on Multiculturalism, alongside the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Zed Seselja. This Statement renews and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to maintaining a strong, multicultural Australia.

Each year, we welcome up to 190,000 permanent migrants to join our family of 24 million.

In our globalised world, we recognise that human capital is very mobile - attracting the best and the brightest is an important part of the equation.

We also run the world’s third largest permanent refugee resettlement program, which we are increasing by 35 per cent.

And because of our combination of security and compassion, in 2015 we were able to commit to resettling an additional 12,000 people displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq - prioritising those assessed as most vulnerable and with the least prospect of returning home safely, including women, children, families and persecuted minorities.

I am proud that we have now issued all 12,000 visas to those most in need.


We have maintained rigorous checks on security. No security standards have been compromised in any way. We have ensured and maintained strong public support and there are over 10,000 of that number already calling Australia home.

No matter their circumstances, everyone who comes to this country knows—like the millions who came before them—that Australia is a nation that has been built by the hands, wits and the ambition of its immigrants.

We welcome newcomers with open arms and mutual respect because we are confident in our culture, our institutions and our laws.

In return, our newest Australians pledge loyalty to Australia and its people, affirm our shared democratic beliefs and agree to respect and uphold our liberties, rights and laws.

This is the precious compact that binds those of us already here with those who wish to join us.

Citizenship offers rights but it also confers the responsibility to integrate and contribute.

Great Australians like defence lawyer and New South Wales Australian of the Year, Deng Adut. Young humanitarian campaigner, Omar Al Kassab. The diversity champion, Sherry-Rose Bih and the new head of SBS, Hass Dellal, learned this first-hand, as refugees, a young migrant and a child of migrant parents.

Tonight, we pay tribute to exceptional individuals who have enabled people like Deng, Omar and Sherry-Rose to receive practical and caring assistance they need after arriving, and to see themselves too, as Australians.

They have learned that in Australia, the only limit to your success is the limit of your imagination and I know there is a great deal of that in the room this evening.

As we have seen around the world, migration is successful only if there is community trust and support for it to really work—first the trust for the government to be in control of an orderly and secure process and second support from government, community organisations and individuals putting in the effort on the ground, helping our newest residents adapt, integrate into the community, and get what they need to build a new life here.

Our settlement programs are the envy of the world and that’s in no small part due to you - the individuals and organisations here tonight.

Your work makes our society stronger, safer, more resilient, more productive and for that you have my deepest appreciation and thanks.

It is work that has no end date. It will always be in our interests, both as individuals and as a nation, to continue working together to maintain Australia’s standing as a beacon of diversity and to further improve and modernise the system to address and anticipate matters at home and abroad.

It is not to say that Australia has no challenges or no issues. Of course we do. But the fact we are a secure, diverse and well integrated nation, means we confront these challenges from a position of strength and unity. We have got so much to be proud of as a nation and we have much to look forward to.

Thank you so much to the Migration Council of Australia for your continued stewardship of Australia’s extraordinary multicultural and migration success story.

And congratulations to all of tonight’s nominees and winners.

Thank you very much.