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Introduction

Speech given by the Governor at the Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence 2021

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First, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are gathering, and I pay my respect to their Elders, past and present, and to Elders of other communities who may be with us this evening.

Tony and I are delighted to welcome you all to Government House for the 2021 Victorian Multicultural Awards for Excellence.

This is, as always, a special occasion, as we embrace the opportunity to recognise the significant work of individuals and organisations who strengthen our vibrant, multicultural community.

This year, it feels particularly special.

First, because we were not able to celebrate these Awards here at Government House last year, reverting instead to a virtual Awards ceremony. In the circumstances of the pandemic, it was a terrific alternative, although nothing beats being able to gather in person.

But this year is also special as we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of these Awards, and the fact that, across those 20 years, this celebration has become a valued event in our State’s annual calendar.

As Victorians, we are proud of our multicultural community, and our diversity is readily apparent from the statistics that are well known to us all.

Nearly half of us were either born overseas or have one parent born overseas. We follow many different faiths. A quarter of us speak a language other than English at home. Indeed, more than three quarters of us who were born overseas come from non-English speaking countries – more than anywhere else in Australia.

Such statistics paint a glorious picture of the richness of our State. But they still tell only a very small part of the whole story.

Behind these statistics are people. Individuals and groups who have collectively made our State better: who have strengthened our multiculturalism and, in so doing, have strengthened the whole of our community.  

Their contributions have never been more important.

COVID-19 has brought with it many challenges. And lessons too.

We have seen that tensions in our community can be heightened when we are met with unusual pressures.  

We have learned that unity is always a work in progress, and we must never take for granted our successes in that regard.

And we have seen that we are at our best when we work together as one. When we support and help one another.

Many of those who have recognised and sought to ease tensions, who have risen to meet the otherwise unmet needs of their own or the wider community are amongst those who have been nominated for these awards.

I note that more than 200 nominations have been received. What a testament to the breadth of generosity within this State.

Thank you and congratulations to each one of you, and the many thousands of others you represent, who help to shape and enrich Victoria’s multicultural landscape.

Thank you too to the role played by your families, colleagues and friends in supporting you.  

We are also grateful to everyone involved in these Awards, as well as, of course, Victorian Multicultural Commission Chair, Viv Nguyen AM, and the VMC commissioners – in particular those who have completed their terms.

Finally, I wonder if, while I have you here with us at Government House, I might ask one thing of you all.

Each year, I have the immense privilege to invest hundreds of Victorians with Australian honours. I know that amongst your extensive networks you will know many fine Victorians who could be nominated for such honours. It is essential to the strength of our Australian honours system that recipients come from every part of the community that makes us ‘us’. 

We know the sacrifices and sometimes the extraordinary hardships that have been experienced by those who have come to this country. And yet, they give so much to the home adopted by them or their families. To see them recognised for that is truly uplifting.

So, that leaves me only to offer warm congratulations to each award winner this evening and to recognise them and all our nominees for their contributions, in the words of Victoria’s State motto, to our Peace and Prosperity.

And we hope that you enjoy your time here at Government House.