I’m honoured to support the Prime Minister tonight in supporting these awards and in honouring the people who have made such a contribution to the life of migrants to our country.
These awards celebrate migrants’ contribution to modern Australia – a country which is utterly unimaginable without migration because except for Aboriginal people, every single Australian is an immigrant or the decedent of immigrants.
Immigration has been at the heart of our Australian story. Without it, the country we know and love would not have come into existence. Our multiculturalism, expressed as our willingness as a nation to let migrants integrate in their own way and at their own pace because of our confidence and the gravitational pull of our values and our way of life.
We are happy, very happy, to celebrate our diversity because we can be confident in our community. After all, every single migrant has voted for Australia with his or her feet.
Australians, for their part, have invariably welcomed newcomers to these shores with generosity and as the Prime Minister has already mentioned this evening, amongst those newcomers are her own parents, and indeed, my own grandparents.
Like millions of others, they came because they sought new life here and because they had the skills and the attitudes that our country needed, principally the determination to become Australian and to succeed in their new home.
Our support for refugees indicates our warms hearts as a people. Our support for skilled migrants indicates our cool heads as a people because why not take the best from anywhere in the world and make them ours?
We should never be more proud of our country than when migrants choose Australia. They, let’s face it, have chosen this country in a way that the native born mostly never have to. They’re the ultimate vindication of our country as a land of hope, reward and opportunity and as the Prime Minister has indicated, successive waves of migrants, originally from the British Isles but increasingly from all corners of the globe, have lent an heroic dimension to our national story.
Like America, this country, too, has been a beacon of hope to “your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”
In directly honouring distinguished migrants, we indirectly honour ourselves because all of us have been shaped and formed by this great immigrant culture.