It is my great pleasure to officially welcome you to Wingecarribee Shire’s 2014 Australia Day festivities.
I particularly welcome our visitors and hope you enjoy what locals unashamedly believe to be the most beautiful part of this wonderful land and trust you enjoy our unique Southern Highlands hospitality.
Today we are gathered to celebrate Australia Day, our official National Day. A day in which we all take great pride in being, or becoming, Australian citizens.
Australia Day is an occasion to be proud of our accomplishments and to also look back on our achievements.
It’s an opportunity to celebrate our rich Aboriginal heritage, cultural diversity, unique flora and fauna and reflect on our nation’s colourful history.
The 26th of January is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander, Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788.
It is little secret that Australia Day holds a special place in the Australian psyche as the entire nation takes time to reflect, relax and of course celebrate.
Today, over 5,000 events have been planned across NSW alone and over half the country’s population will attend either an organised community event, or get together with family and friends with the intention of celebrating our national day.
Yet Australia Day is much more than barbeques and fireworks.
At its core, Australia Day is a day driven by communities, and the unique celebrations of each town, suburb or city are the foundations of its ongoing success.
But this year there is even more reason to celebrate as 2014 marks the 65th anniversary of Australian citizenship.
On this day in 1949, the newly created Nationality and Citizenship Act came into force. One week later, the first Australian citizenship ceremony was held within Albert Hall in Canberra where seven European men became Australian citizens.
Since then, more than 4.5 million people from across the globe have followed their footsteps. Today thousands more people will join them, including 13 right here in Berrima.
Australia Day is also an opportunity for all of us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.
As Australians, we are resilient and courageous in the face of adversity. We are compassionate towards our neighbours and we are generous in times of hardship.
Attributes which were perhaps best witnessed during last October’s bushfires which threatened our Shire’s northern villages. It is these qualities which undoubtedly help make Australia the most fortunate land in which to live, work and play.
One of the many highlights of today is the announcement of our Shire’s Australia Day Citizen of the Year award recipients.
Another will be the welcome we make to our newest citizens who will shortly take the pledge of commitment as a citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia.
With this pledge comes the honour of residing in the most special of countries.
A country with great opportunities that are available to all of us as part of our contemporary, diverse, egalitarian and democratic nation.
To today’s new citizens – we welcome you; we offer you a share in Australia’s bright future; and we thank you for choosing to call Australia home.
On behalf of Wingecarribee Shire Council, I extend a warm Australia Day welcome to each and every one of you and encourage you all to ‘Celebrate what’s great!’ about this land we call ‘home’.
Councillor Juliet Arkwright
Mayor of Wingecarribee Shire