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"Belonging: a century celebrated" : speech at the opening of the State Library's Centenary of Federation Exhibition: Victorian State Library.

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9 May 2001




Thank you very much Mr Sam Lipski, Mary Delahunty, the Minister for Centenary of Federation in Victoria, Denis Napthine, the Leader of the Victorian Opposition, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, and other members of the Murdoch family, ladies and gentlemen.

There are a lot of things happening in Melbourne at the moment. There�s a lot happening today. I�ve just come from presenting but 2 of 2,000,000 Centenary of Federation medallions to some school children in a little primary school out near Nunawading. And it�s a reminder of course that a day like this is not only a day to reflect on the past but it�s also a day to dedicate to the future. And as I looked at that excited gathering of school children I reflected upon the fact that fifty years ago I was one of those excited schoolchildren receiving as, so timing would have it, a medallion to mark the fifty years of the Australian Federation at a not dissimilar school.

But we�ve come here to open an exhibition and to recognise that in the reality of our life and in the reality of the life of the nation, there is a sense of belonging for each of us. We all have images of where we came from. We have images of where we are. We have experiences that are frozen either in our own recollection or in photographs that we treasure and keep. And

what this exhibition I think very beautifully does and I�ve had the opportunity, albeit altogether too briefly to have a look at it, what it does is to remind us of the sense of belonging and the sense of place that we each have in so many different ways. And it is important at a time like this when we properly honour and we properly celebrate what�s been achieved and we try and throw ahead we also pause for a moment and reflect upon what a sense of belonging and a sense of identity and a sense of security has meant in different ways to different Australians.

We all have those images from childhood. We all have those comfortable recollections of the Christmas holiday in the Blue Mountains if you grew up in a certain part of Sydney or later on it was a beach holiday. If you were a migrant you would have some recollections of your first experience with Australia. If you were an indigenous person you would have a mixture of recollections. If you were a bushman it would be different. If you were somebody who grew up in the suburbs of Sydney and who identified your youth with the Victa mower and the Hills Hoist you�d probably have a sense of belonging that was in common with many millions of Australians who grew up in those circumstances.

But this exhibition is a result of the contribution of many people and I do particularly want to commend the four very prestigious collecting institutions that are involved, the State Libraries of Victoria and New South Wales, the National Library of Australia and the National Archives of Australia. It is I understand the first time that these four institutions have collaborated together in this particular fashion. It�s also a culmination of a widespread programme of community consultation, including thirteen workshops held across the country and consultations by an indigenous advisory committee with indigenous communities and individuals to develop �We belong to the land� section of the exhibition.

I would like to join Sam Lipski in expressing my thanks and that of the nation for the contribution of $5 million by Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and the Murdoch family to the State Library for this exhibition space. It is so appropriate that the memory of the late Sir Keith Murdoch should be marked in this way in his home town and a city to which he gave so much and his family has given so much and through it given to the nation. I also want to thank and congratulate AAMI on its support for the exhibition. And also for the National Council for the Centenary of Federation which has supported this exhibition to the tune of $300,000. Corporate sponsorship is absolutely essential for successful exhibitions in the times in which we live and we should never take it for granted and we should never lose an opportunity to express our gratitude as I do to AAMI for its generosity.

Ladies and gentlemen this has been, as Sam indicated, a great time not only to be alive as an Australian, but a great time to share the hospitality and the generosity of the people of this beautiful city and to enjoy its wonderful autumn weather and to share the sense of community excitement that I find here in Melbourne about the events particularly the events that we are to mark today with the re-enactment or the commemoration of the first gathering in the Royal Exhibition Building in a few hours time and of course tomorrow a ceremonial sitting of the Federal Parliament in its old place of debate and encounter, what is now the Victorian Parliament. But life is not only about politics, life is also about the cultural and artistic contributions and it�s also about the personal reminiscences of people. We are an aggregation of wonderful and intriguing personal stories and family histories and personal circumstances, many of them are joyous and happy, all too many of them are sad and difficult, but all of them are part of the history of our nation. And we all need a sense of security. We all need a sense of belonging to people, we need a sense of belonging to a place, we need a sense of belonging to a nation. And I think this exhibition is a very important ingredient of a proper

commemoration of the establishment of the Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne and I have very great pleasure in declaring it open.

Thank you.


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