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Christmas message.

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24 December 2007

Therese and I and our family would like to wish all Australians a wonderful Christmas this year. Christmas is a time for reflection, it is a time for celebration, it is a time for giving, it is a time for our kids and for our grandkids. It is also a time when we get together as families and some of us travel a long, long way so that families spread across this vast country of ours can come together at last.

Christmas can also be a time when people experience a great sense of loss and loneliness. A spare chair, a vacant chair at the Christmas table, reminding those present of either a loved one who has passed away, or a loved one who cannot be with us at this time.

I’d say therefore to all Australians that at this time of year it is important to reach out to our friends, to our neighbours and to those that we don’t know at all, to make sure that no one is alone this Christmas.

I thank all of our church and community and charitable organisations for the marvellous work they do in making sure that those who are in need are catered for, not just now at Christmas, but right through the year as well.

I have just returned from visiting our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and earlier in East Timor. We have more than three and a half thousand of our men and women in uniform currently serving overseas. They are in great spirits. But at this time of year they are going to be separated from their family and from their loved ones. So I would ask all Australians to bear them in their thoughts and in their prayers as well as they confront the difficult and dangerous challenges of the year ahead.

On behalf of the Australian nation I passed on our thanks to them for their service and their sacrifice, including the sacrifice of some who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and given their lives for their country.

I also pass on my thanks to their families who I know will be sensing their own experience of loss while their loved ones are serving our nation abroad.

This time of year, many of us travel long, long distances, driving to see our families for Christmas and for the New Year. As someone who lost their Dad nearly 40 years ago in a car accident could I say to everyone please, please drive carefully. Take a break, have a rest, make sure you are not driving too tired.

To our emergency services personnel and to our police who attend to those who are injured at this time of year, I also pass on the thanks of the nation. They are working hard while the rest of us are celebrating with our families and our loved ones.

To our farmers and those who live in remote and rural Australia, can I say the rest of the nation feels with you at this time as well. Despite the fact that there have been rains recently in some parts of Australia, this has been a terrible drought. And in the year ahead I look forward to working with you in dealing with the challenges which face us all and face the farming community in particular.

Christmas is a time of great spiritual significance for those of the Christian faith. Christmas is also a time of equally great significance for those not of the Christian faith, when they get together still as families to celebrate this time together in this wonderfully, diverse nation of ours Australia.

On behalf of Therese and myself, Jessica, Albert, Nicholas and Marcus I’d like to extend to all of you a very happy Christmas, a very peaceful Christmas - and a very happy New Year and a very prosperous New Year as well.

The Lodge, Canberra Media contact: 02 6277 7744