Premier honours the first Australians in her Australia Day speech

Eddie Woo, Prof. Simmons, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and  Macinley Butson (far right)

Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian in her Australia Day speech at a lunch   prior to Australia Day on January 26, celebrated the people of Australia and their achievements as she said, “We recognise with honour that our national story begins with the First Australians, our indigenous communities and their unique heritage that stretches back forty thousand years.

That we are home to the world’s oldest continuing culture is a cause for celebration every day, but especially on Australia Day. It fills us all with such great pride ”“ and with determination to make sure that we value, protect and continue to support the aspirations of all our indigenous communities.”

Ms Berejiklian shared the story of her family, “My sisters and I grew up in a household where my parents were extremely proud of our Armenian heritage, but incredibly grateful that Australia had given them the opportunity to raise a family in freedom and peace.

My grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and my parents grew up among the Armenian diaspora spread across the Middle East. They migrated separately to Sydney in the late 1960s, met and were married here, and worked hard as a welder and a nurse to give my sisters and I the opportunities they never had.”

Talking about her parents, she said, “Growing up, we were especially proud that our dad had worked on the second highest sail of the Sydney Opera House. Despite being highly intelligent and industrious, neither of my parents had the chance to finish high school or live with the freedoms that my sisters and I ”“ like many Australians ”“ would often take for granted.

For me, this opportunity meant receiving an education at public school and becoming the first member of my extended family to go to university. When I started school as a 5 year old with a very long surname who couldn’t speak English, I was obviously oblivious to the opportunities that would present themselves to me, uniquely, in Australia. My parents constantly reminded us of the opportunity we had been given, the importance of working hard, and the responsibility to give back in whichever way we could.”

“To this day, my father hangs the Australian flag on the verandah of the family home in North Ryde every Australia Day,” She proudly said.

She went on to say that “In Australia I truly believe we have a greater capacity than any other nation to fulfil our dreams ”“ the freedom for ordinary people to work hard and reach our potential, to pursue big visions and make them a reality, and to hand a better, more just society to the next generation.

To see this in action, we need only look at our 2018 Australians of the year.”

“I know they will not mind me saying that all of them are ordinary Australians who through grit and sacrifice have dedicated themselves to improving the lives and experiences of others.”

She talked about Professor Simmons, the NSW Australian of the Year for defining the boundaries of quantum computing in ways that could transform so many aspects of our economy and society; Dr. Hamlin, Senior Australian of the Year who helped improve the lives of tens of thousands of Ethiopian women, preventing and treating horrendous childbirth injuries; 17 year old Macinley Butson, Young Australian of the Year won a prestigious global award for new technology that protects breast cancer patients during surgery and Eddie Woo, our NSW Local Hero, has devoted his incredible talent to teaching Maths, inspiring students in Sydney and around the world, and mentoring young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

While honouring the contribution of these exceptional Australians, Berejiklian concluded in her speech, “In 2018, let us all do everything in our power to strengthen our nation, be true to the values that unite us, and secure the freedoms and opportunities of the country we love, for generations of Australians to come.”

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