• John Landy – Governor of Victoria – and Mrs Lynne Landy
• Lady Southey – Lieutenant Governor of Victoria
• John Cain – former Premier of Victoria
• Candy Broad – Minister for Housing and Local Government
• Justin Madden – Minister for Sport and Recreation and the Commonwealth Games
• Tony Lupton – Member for Prahran
• Robert Doyle – Leader of the State Opposition
• John So – Lord Mayor of Melbourne – and the Lady Mayoress, Wendy Cheng
• Mrs Ana Modun – Consul-General of the Republic of Croatia
• Bruce Hartnett – Acting Chairman of the Australia Day Committee – and Committee members
• Naomi Milgrom – CEO of the Sussan Corporation
• John Harnden – CEO of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation
• Peter McLaughlin – Director Australia Post
• Australia Day Ambassadors and sponsors
• Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we stand – the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders – and to any other Elders who are with us this afternoon.
In six days we will mark Australia Day.
Traditionally, a day of celebration.
Increasingly – for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians – a day of reflection.
And, ultimately, a chance for Australia to show its diverse and dynamic face to world.
With that in mind, I would like to briefly reflect on the meaning of Australia Day and multiculturalism.
This January 26 it will be 218 years to the day since Arthur Phillip – the man Port Phillip Bay is named after – took official possession of what was then known as the colony of New South Wales.
As such, Australia Day marks the birth of our nation.
But the point I would like to emphasis today is the fact that the First Fleet – and the first Australians they encountered – were both multicultural.
Indigenous Australia was not a homogenous country – but a land of around 600 different tribes and nations speaking in the vicinity of 200 distinct languages.
Likewise, the convicts of the First Fleet were not all Dickensian Londoners – they were from all over the Empire.
They were European – but also African.
They were Protestant and Catholic – but also Jewish.
In other words, we have always been a land of many faiths, many languages and many cultures.
Nowhere is that more apparent than at the Eureka Stockade – the rebellion that became the birthplace of Australian democracy.
Of the 101 miners officially counted at the Stockade on December 3, 1854, only four were Australian born.
The 97 other miners hailed from 18 other countries.
Once again, a land of many faiths, many languages and many cultures.
Consequently, our heritage does not belong to any one individual or group.
It belongs to everyone.
We should also remember the connection that exists between our democratic heritage and Australia Day.
That the foundations for the Legislative Assembly – literally the cornerstones of our democratic institutions – were first laid on January 26, 1856, on what was then known as “Foundation Day”.
And that all Victorians have a stake in that democratic heritage.
We are a community of five million people.
We may come from different parts of the world, we may have different racial backgrounds, we may speak different languages at home, we may practice different faiths – but we are all Victorians.
And as Victorians, we each have equal rights and responsibilities.
Rights to practice our faith, speak our mind, celebrate our cultural diversity, and live without discrimination or vilification.
And responsibilities to respect the rights of our fellow Victorians and respect the democratic and legal principles of this State.
The social harmony we have achieved is built upon those principles – and it is hard won.
To appreciate how hard won, consider this eyewitness account of the largest race riots on Victoria’s goldfields – when a mob armed with pick-handles attacked Chinese diggers on the Buckland River in 1857.
“Men were knocked down and robbed, their swags taken from them and cast into the river…
“The rage and violence of the mob was not confined to the [Chinese] – it was visited on Europeans who endeavoured to protect them…”
What is most telling about that account by a Constable Duffy is that numerous bystanders tried to protect their fellow miners.
They refused to be party to indiscriminate violence.
The actions of those bystanders should inform our actions today.
Because we are defined as a community by how we defend our citizens.
That is why we must recognise that when any Victorian is verbally or physically assaulted because of their appearance or beliefs our values are also assaulted.
Values of multiculturalism, equality, tolerance and democracy.
Because it is multiculturalism, equality, tolerance and democracy that enable our State to grow and prosper – and enable our citizens to reach their full potential.
People like Professor David de Kretser – who came to Melbourne from Sri Lanka as a nine-year-old and, just yesterday, was named as the Governor to succeed the eminent John Landy.
Speaking of John Landy, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Governor for the outstanding leadership and service he has provided his community over the past five years.
With the Commonwealth Games just 54 days away, I have no doubt we are set to see some of John Landy’s best work as an internationally-renowned ambassador for Victoria.
Because – with a global audience of 1 billion people – the Commonwealth Games is an unprecedented opportunity for us to show our multicultural and egalitarian face to the world.
In 1956 – when we hosted the Olympics and John Landy took the athletes’ oath – the multicultural experience of the “Friendly Games” changed us for the better.
Fifty years on – with the world as troubled now as it was back in the height of the Cold War – the Commonwealth Games is an opportunity for us to show the world how people of different backgrounds and beliefs can form new communities.
Communities of tolerance and justice.
Ladies and gentlemen, with that said I would like to introduce today’s John Batman Oration.
Naomi Milgrom is one of Australia’s top business leaders – as well as a leader in the arts and sciences.
She is Chair and CEO of the Sussan Group; Director of the Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine; and Chair of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.
She is also a child of that great post-World War Two migrant boom that did so much to build modern Australia.
And she is the first woman to deliver the John Batman Oration.
Please make Naomi Milgrom welcome.