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Australia Day address 2007

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26 JANUARY 2007

Last Australia Day I spoke about caring for our land and its people and if our country is to continue to prosper

in an increasingly competitive and challenging world, we should aspire to be a Nation of Excellence, the

Global Example.

On this Australia Day I ask all of us to think about how we might best cultivate that vision for 2007 and


I’m convinced that one way we can do this is by nurturing our youth - our future citizens and leaders.

The great 20th century Australian civil engineer, soldier and public administrator, General Sir John Monash,

recognised this.

He believed that education was the key but that its value and application went far beyond simply satisfying

one’s intellectual fulfilment and career aspirations.

He considered that with a good education comes civic and leadership responsibilities.

In the 21st century Monash’s vision lives on in the Sir John Monash awards honouring the academic and

community achievements of brilliant young Australians across diverse research and professional arenas, from

medicine to engineering, law, social justice and the humanities.

And schemes like the Rhodes Scholarships, Churchill Fellowships and Apprentice of the Year Awards offer

unique opportunities for study and career development both within Australia and overseas.

But young people can also be nurtured in less formal ways, for example by encouraging them to join

sporting, community or civic groups, such as the Scouts, who celebrate their centenary this year.

These groups provide valuable opportunities for mentoring, a concept now universally recognised and valued

by corporations and public institutions alike.

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Mentoring is not a new concept. Ancient civilisations, including Indigenous Australians, mentored their young

people in preparation for assuming the responsibilities of adulthood.

Like most grandparents I want to see my grandchildren thrive on the ‘journey to fulfilment’;

hence my respect for the nation’s teachers who mentor every day.

Teaching is a noble profession and I salute all those men and women steering a way through the complex

dynamics of the classroom to educate and nurture the next generation of Australians.

Today, one of the great mentoring success stories is the West Australian based School Volunteer Program,

where some 2000 trained mentors, mostly retirees, are helping improve the literacy, numeracy and social

skills of over 4000 students annually.

I hope to see this very worthwhile program expanded Australia wide, and that more retirees will volunteer

their services to this wonderful cause.

There is no finer example of volunteerism than in the Australian surf life saving movement which this year

celebrates its Centenary.

Our 112,000 life savers display an exceptional sense of civic responsibility and commitment

to educating and training young Australians.

Their courage, dedication and skill has resulted in the rescue of some 500,000 swimmers over the past 100

years without a single life lost between the flags.

The enduring value of service above self is annually displayed by the magnificent men and women of our fire

fighting and emergency service units.

To all of those who have worked tirelessly during the current bushfire season and to their families, I express

my deep gratitude and admiration on behalf of the nation. These sentiments also apply to our splendid

defence force personnel serving with distinction at home and overseas.

The current drought presents Australia with major challenges, particularly in how we might best support our

farming and rural communities.

In May last year, I spent ten days travelling from South Australia through Central Australia along the

Birdsville Track to outback Queensland, to Alice Springs and to the Tanami Desert in Western Australia.

We are indelibly bound to the unique geography and climate of our continent but the management of our

environment can no longer be left to chance. Hence the need for innovation and I saw plenty of that along

the Track.

For example there was the widespread use of solar technology to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and the

application of satellite imagery, climate data and modelling to help make better predictions about pasture and

crop growth rates. The Australian Agricultural College at Longreach is a wonderful example of how to

encourage and train young people for careers on the land.

I hope many more Australians will visit the outback as tourists to support drought affected communities.

The reality is that rural and regional Australia is spectacular, well-managed, friendly and innovative.

To those people who haven’t been inland, my message is simple, go and have a look around and take the


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Over the past two years some 17 Heads of State have visited Australia. This indicates, in a powerful way, the

ever increasing international interest in Australia; that indeed we have much to offer.

But we cannot become complacent.

To remain secure in a troubled world and to prosper in an increasingly competitive one, requires each of us to

do our best at all times, in all aspects of our lives, and especially to inculcate in our children a code of living

that we should always treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

I believe passionately that as Australians we have the tolerance, intelligence, innovative spirit and

compassion to be a role model in the making of a better world.

So let each of us through our individual and collective endeavours resolve to play our part in helping to

achieve that worthy objective.

From Marlena, me and our family, a very happy Australia Day to you all.

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