Australia Day Speech, Gundagai - Part 2Back to Speeches
And that leads me to the thrust of my speech here today. Gundagai is a wonderful community. Indeed most country communities will, on this very day, be celebrating the contributions of a number of people and organisations that in some small way make their respective communities great.
It is the sense of community that so impresses me when I visit every country community in NSW. The fabric of these communities is crafted over time. It should not be dismissed, it should not be taken for granted. The fabric of country communities should be respected. That respect can only come if people understand how the fabric is held together, who the contributors were or are, and why.
Historic events assist the fabric take shape, they will dictate the weave or thread. Whether these events are disasters such as significant floods or fire; or celebrations such as sporting victories or academic achievement of school students. They will be events that people remember and talk about for a very long time. They may even embellish the yarn to make it even more impressive!
That is why it is important to remember our history, even if it is painful, and ensure lessons are learnt. Communities, like people, can make mistakes. History, even painful history, sustains the sense of community that make places such as Gundagai great places to live.
The community fabric is something influenced by every resident in some way. Every strand of the fabric represents an element of the community. Sporting groups, theatre groups, art galleries, museums, the business community and of course the very, very important community based not for profit organisations.
I ask people to give consideration to the strength of the community fabric of Gundagai. Today several people will be acknowledged for contributing in some way to the Gundagai community, and each of them will have strengthened the Gundagai community fabric.
I am a strong advocate for involvement in your community. I do not think people should just live in their local community, enjoy the community fabric without giving back in some small way. Essentially, I am an advocate for citizenship. People should try to give back to their community in some way. This contribution can take any number of forms. People can assist with the museum, or with local community groups. Certainly I encourage people to think about contesting the next local government elections if they have the time to commit.
I personally served for twelve years on Young Shire Council and found it to be most rewarding and I certainly learnt a number of lessons about representing local residents. Serving on your local council is one of the most significant ways to contribute to your local community. If you haven’t thought about it I would urge you to think seriously about serving on your local council. It is easy to criticise your local councillors – every community does so. Even the local media might have a shot as well. It is a type of compulsory sport in most country communities! I mean there really isn’t much else now the banks are packing up and moving on is there. My advice is, as I have said, if you are not happy with your local council then why not give it a go.
I would just like to finish up by saying that people should not be scared of contributing to your community. Just volunteering time to a cause is fine. Volunteering need not be public. My wife Adrienne and I have been fostering for more than fifteen years and have provided a safe and loving environment for more than thirty children in that time. Fostering is not easy and it would be irresponsible to say anything other than it is not easy. Fostering is also rewarding. Every community has, in some small way, a responsibility to ensure the children in their community are enjoying a safe, secure and loving upbringing. For Adrienne and I, fostering is an important contribution to our community.
Do not let yourselves fall into the “me, myself and I” doctrine of economic rationalism. Live in your community. Enjoy your community. Give back to your community. Celebrate your community.
To the people of Gundagai, congratulations. This is a wonderful community. It is one you should be most proud. To the recipients of the awards today I would like to pass on my appreciation and congratulations.