Mayor's opinion

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 24-Jan-2018

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By Margaret O’Rourke
City of Greater Bendigo Mayor

How will you celebrate Australia Day tomorrow?

Will you be cooking up a feast with friends or perhaps you’re heading to a community celebration in your suburb or small town. 

Maybe you’re planning on watching the cricket; hopefully Australia can notch at least one win in this One-Day International series. 

It’s going to be hot (again), so maybe you’re off to one of our outdoor swimming pools, which are offering free entry, or you’re simply going to stay indoors with the air conditioning on. 

Whatever you do, I hope you pause to remember how fortunate we are to live in Australia and particularly greater Bendigo. 

Australia Day allows us to celebrate who we are as a nation. 

We are driven by a “can do” attitude and have a willingness to give almost anything a go. 

When the chips are down, we help each other out – from the battlefields to the Aussie battler on tough times, mateship has always been one of our most enduring strengths. 

In 2018, I believe Australia is still the land of opportunity and still has those inherent qualities of a fair go. 

This is probably best demonstrated by the number of people migrating to our country in search of a better life. 

Today, Bendigo is home to more than 20 cultures, including newly emerging groups from Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar and Bangladesh.  

Welcoming people from different nations is a hallmark of our Australian identity.

Multiculturalism has become a unique strength of Australian culture and is warmly celebrated here in Bendigo.

Tomorrow, 41 people will become Australian citizens. It will be a heart-warming and emotional occasion. 

Conducting citizenship ceremonies is one of the greatest privileges you can have as mayor. It is an honour and I appreciate the significance of what this duty entails. 

I know for many the path that has led to them taking the citizenship Oath or Affirmation was a traumatic one. 

Many of us cannot imagine what they have encountered in order to become an Australian.

When you’re born here you take so much for granted. Our national day certainly reaffirms we are fortunate to live in a country free from war and turmoil, that is fairly governed, where we enjoy equality, have religious freedoms, and have access to world-class healthcare and education. 

It’s also important to remember that tomorrow is not a day of celebration for everyone, particularly some members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. 

To ensure Australia remains an inclusive place for all, we need to continually strive for better understanding, respect and reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. 

However you choose to celebrate tomorrow or even if you choose to celebrate on another day, I hope you enjoy yourself. Happy Australia Day. 

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