Release type: Speech


2014 Young Australian of the Year Award


The Hon Senator Scott Ryan
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education

Afternoon tea with finalists

National Portrait Gallery

Friday 24 January, 2014


Thank you Martin for that kind introduction.

If would like to acknowledge Jeremy Lasek, the CEO of the National Australia Day Council and Mr Akram Azimi the currentYoung Australian of the Year, but most importantly the finalists that are here today.

One of the notable aspects of Australia Day in comparison to many other national days around the world is what it represents and how it’s celebrated.

You see, many national days around the world celebrate politicians in one way or another;

  • Independence Day in the United States celebrates the Declaration of Independence, drafted by politicians,
  • Canada Day celebrates the formation of Canada by an Act of Parliament,
  • Waitangi Day in New Zealand celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Other nations celebrate liberation or revolution, in some cases violent - the most notable of these being Bastille Day in France.

I offer no judgment on any of these, but I think Australia Day is a little different.

It doesn’t commemorate an act of politicians, but the simple disembarkation of the ship HMS Supply of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, 200 hundred years ago.

This followed an extraordinary voyage to a new world, one of endurance and stamina as much as anything else.

After eight months at sea, it is easy to imagine that stepping ashore was more a relief than a celebration – whether convict, marine or officer.

And we know there was a sense of trepidation shared by all.

Maybe this sense of relief, trepidation and even shared fear, was the first step towards those egalitarian tendencies and the hostility to class that both form such an important part of our history.

Australia Day is a celebration of the people. To appropriate Abraham Lincoln, it is a celebration of the people, by the people.

And across Australia it is celebrated in different ways;

It occurs through sport, a simple BBQ with friends, formal celebrations we [here] will take part in, and community festivals across the country. Many also celebrate the ethnic diversity of the land that has provided a new home for people from around the world.

So, as a day of and for the people, it is entirely right and appropriate that we acknowledge those amongst us who represent the active citizenry that is an immeasurably important part of our society and community.

Politicians and leaders can talk, cajole, suggest, legislate and regulate, tax and spend money and dare I say even argue.

But today we celebrate those who get their hands dirty, those who actually do.

I don’t wish to diminish the work of anyone but to name a couple, whether it is the Country and Rural Fire Services that we have seen active across Australia only over the last month, the Salvos who work our streets every night, or the thousands of others who volunteer to bring about real change and support in the lives of others. Our society is unimaginable without those who lead by example.

And the finalists for the Young Australian of the Year here today embody this.

They are leaders by virtue of their actions as much as their ideas.

There are extraordinary achievements among this group, who I will attempt to do some justice to as I introduce them.

We have;

  • Huy Nguyen from here in the ACT: a global disability advocate and humanitarian engineer.
  • Jacqueline Freney from New South Wales: incredibly successful at her own sporting career and now dedicated to helping others reach their potential.
  • Daniel Flynn from my home state of Victoria: puts our own habit of buying bottled water to work to help other people around the world get access to safe drinking water.
  • Jordyn Archer from Queensland who works to free young women form the tragedy of sex-trafficking and to support new lives.
  • Dr John van Bockxmeer from Western Australia assists thousands of people in indigenous and migrant communities to access the sporting equipment and opportunities that we all take for granted.
  • Julian O’Shea from South Australia uses his engineering expertise to influence technological solutions and engineering challengers in other countries.
  • Dr Clare Smith from Tasmania is a medical researcher dedicated to fighting the global scourge of malaria in developing countries.
  • And Emily Osborne from the Northern Territory is an advocate for young carers who has lived the challengers she helps other address.

These achievements and your contributions to our community are all the more extraordinary because of your youth.

In recognising your achievements, we are celebrating your dedication and hard work and the efforts of all those you work with across the nation as well as those others who lead and volunteer in our communities.

And please do not underestimate your importance as role models; other young Australians, other older Australians will be inspired by your work.

On behalf of the Australian Government, congratulations and thank you.

Finally, I would like to thank Jeremy and the National Australia Day Council who do a fantastic job organising this award and the celebrations we will take part in over the coming weekend.