Opinion: Celebrate, reflect and thank God for fireys

BEN MORTON is the Federal Member for Tangney and a rising star in the Morrison government. Following his pivotal advice that helped secure the Coalition’s against-the-odds election victory last year, Mr Morton was promoted to Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and now has responsibility for the National Australia Day Council. With many local governments ditching Australia Day celebrations over concerns it offends Indigenous people, he makes a pitch that it’s a tradition worth preserving.

AUSTRALIA DAY is a day to reflect on the past, present and future – to think about where we have been and where we are going as a nation.

It’s a day to celebrate our people, our successes and our resilience in the face of adversity.

It’s a day to listen to each other and respect each other’s stories and contributions, and to acknowledge that whatever our experience and backgrounds, that first and foremost we are Australians.

We celebrate our land, our freedoms and our democracy, our wonderful lifestyle, our achievements, the opportunities our country offers, as well as its potential to become even better.

We reflect on our struggles and successes as a nation – our resilience in overcoming world wars, depression, drought, fire and flood. This year we are experiencing the harsh challenges of fire and drought.

So this Australia Day we pay special tribute to the sacrifice of our emergency service personnel and volunteers who have been at the frontline fighting the bushfires.

We also applaud the countless volunteers, from all walks of life, who have dropped everything to lend a hand and we applaud the generosity of Australians who have supported communities devastated by fire.

This year, even more so than others, we draw strength from our strong community spirit and mateship.

Australia Day is an opportunity for Australians to bind as a nation – to reflect on our past, celebrate our present and contemplate our common future.

The usual Australia Day debate fuelled by activists has been unusually subdued this year. The bushfires have bonded communities together and bought to the forefront the strength of the Australian spirit and pride in our nation and our people.

I’ve been disappointed to see that some councils have cancelled Australia Day events ‘out of respect’ for our firefighters.

On the contrary, such events are an opportunity for all Australians to reflect on their courage and sacrifice, respect their bravery and commitment and honour their contribution as Australian heroes.

Out of such hardships and cruelties our nation has emerged as a diverse, free and fair society.

Diversity is one of our nation’s greatest achievements.

Our story starts over 60,000 years ago with the First Australians, the world’s oldest living culture. Australia Day is a day to reflect on the impact of European settlement had on Indigenous Australians and their way of life. It’s a day where we can respectfully learn about the ongoing history, traditions and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Australia is also the most successful multicultural nation on earth – a tapestry of peoples from around the globe who have all contributed to our social, cultural and economic success.

Today more than 25 million people from almost 200 different countries make up our society and we will welcome thousands of new citizens on Australia Day.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as being part of a particular family, tribe, region, state, ethnic group, generation or religion. So Australia Day is important because it is the day that whatever our experience and backgrounds we acknowledge we are Australians first and foremost.

No one is more Australian than another.

That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree. We all have different views. We all have different backgrounds. And because of this Australia Day means different things to different people.

But we prize the values of individual freedom, equality opportunity regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background, mutual respect, tolerance, fairness and compassion for those in need.

We should celebrate these very freedoms and values – for they are at the very heart of being able to freely express different views, listen to each other and respect each other’s opinions.

For all these reasons Australia Day is rightly our biggest annual civic event. Last year more than 10 million Australians participated in Australia Day activities, celebrating our diverse background and the extraordinary achievements that have made Australia such a successful nation.

I for one have always loved Australia Day and participated in events as a proud Australian with my family and friends. Now I share Australia Day with my own children. It is a day for hope and optimism about our future as a nation.

So this Australia Day, in particular, join with your own community and take time to reflect on the bravery and determination of our emergency service personnel and volunteers, respect their immense contribution to our nation and celebrate their spirit and strength.

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