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Mayoral Australia Day 2002 message

In the twelve months since Australia Day 2001, most will agree that the world has significantly changed

By Latrobe City Council - 23rd January 2002 - Back to News

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From Latrobe City Mayor, Councillor Brendan Jenkins

In the twelve months since Australia Day 2001, most will agree that the world has significantly changed. The dramatic events in New York with a loss of many Australian lives, and the Australian involvement in Afghanistan, have reminded us that Australia is no longer a country comfortably remote from the troubles of the world.

As citizens, we have also been reminded that millions are fleeing oppression in other lands, and are seeking refuge for their families or the opportunity to create new lives for themselves in safer countries. Some see Australia as a potential destination, and few of us could remain unaware of their plight, highlighted through issues such as the Tampa affair, the establishment of Australian refugee processing camps offshore, and ongoing disturbances and protests at the detention centres here on the mainland.

Perhaps we take our citizenship too much for granted because many of us have never had to struggle to claim it. For many it is an inherent right and we live in the secure knowledge that our right to be Australian Citizens remains in perpetuity. Perhaps more than ever, we are now being reminded that Australian citizenship is far more than just a right, it is a privilege that thousands of the world’s citizens who are not as fortunate as ourselves, are desperate to embrace. It is a privilege which brings obligations, not the least of those is to recognise our good fortune and not ignore our responsibility to make the most of our favoured position.

As we celebrate this Australia Day, let us take time to reflect upon how we view our Australian citizenship. Is it something we will always treasure, or something we just accept as our right. If citizenship is something to be valued, what responsibilities do we then have as Australian citizens to our nation, and do we live up to those responsibilities?

On Australia Day this year we will welcome eighteen members of our community as Australian Citizens. Their backgrounds and their paths towards Australian citizenship are as diverse as their individual culture and heritage, yet I am sure that each and every one has something in common. Each has decided that they will treasure their citizenship, because to them it is not a right, but something they believe they have been privileged to receive.

Perhaps only someone seeking Australian citizenship can estimate its true value. However, as we welcome them as citizens of Latrobe and citizens of Australia, let all of us who are already Australian citizens take a moment to reflect on what it means to us.


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