Wheeling out my Australia Day speech from 2007

In 2007 I was asked to give the Australia Day speech at Red Cliffs. It was such a great honour, so I thought I’d wheel it out again for you today, Australia Day 2011. The sentiment remains the same, and if you like, you can listen to the Seekers sing “I am Australian” while you read it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Australia Day means to you, so post a comment.

Welcome – Councillors, Red Cliffs citizens, visitors

My name is Camille. I’m a local girl who grew up here and then did what most of my friends did – I moved away, to Melbourne, to study and to really experience life. To get away from the small town that had shaped me given me my values and take my life into my own hands.

Eight years on after a marketing degree, some work experience and a year of travel, I came back home and it was the best move I’d ever made.

To me, Australia Day is a homage to home and a celebration of community. 

We live in a great place. Sometimes it is hard for us to see that and we need to get out and come back in to truly appreciate how unique, vibrant and well serviced our town is.

Here in Red Cliffs we have two fantastic tertiary education facilities on our doorstep, La Trobe University and Sunraysia Institute of TAFE, which means that we can be educated on our home soil.

We have a great climate and natural surroundings, a varied and cultured social life and, well, we have Big Lizzie. The grand dame of Red Cliffs, all the travellers want a photo of her, she’s been the stalwart of our community celebrations, festivals and a great icon for our town. She’s seen it all, including my first kiss as a teenager!

We have so many attachments to home and it’s worth taking some time to think about what home, Red Cliffs, Sunraysia, Victoria … Australia … means to us.

Our community is strong. Just recently we’ve been tested, and we won (the fight against a toxic waste dump being located in the region). Persistence paid off and that shall remain a feather in our cap, a legacy for a brighter future that we will pass on to coming generations. This is what is called social capital. The working together of members of our community, individuals as a group, generating output that will maintain and improve what we have for those that follow.

Active citizenship, that participation, that passion, that drive to achieve, is something we need to cultivate in young people. Already, by Australian Bureau of Statistics research, we as a small community have far greater social capital and volunteering rates than our city counterparts. This is about community.

Community is what I missed most when I was living in Melbourne. I missed the sense of belonging I felt in Red Cliffs. I missed the activity of the community and the things I could get involved in that really meant something to me and the people around me.

In the cities they don’t understand community. The way a town’s fabric is woven from many different people who share a geographical sense of place, an interconnected work and social life and a united front on positive progression for their town.

This is why I came home. To have this feeling of peace inside me. A short holiday to the Philippines last year drilled this home. The absolute best part of my trip was touching down in Mildura, because I knew I was home, where I belonged, where I was valued and where I could make a difference.

Since moving back home I’ve had the most amazing opportunities that would never have come my way in a city. I am a founding member of the Mildura Young Professionals Network, and its current chairperson. This network was set up to attract and retain young people in this region through social networking and professional development. We target the 20 – 40 year old age group and our definition of professional is as simple as being committed to your career and personal growth. Many might look upon us as a ‘noughties’ version of young farmers.

I have also had the opportunity to go to Canberra and attend a workshop on issues facing young people in regional Australia. Through these opportunities I have learnt so much about our region, the needs of young people, leadership and about myself. I found these opportunities by getting involved, reading the paper and talking to people around me.

Opportunities, be they social, work, financial or cultural, are out there everywhere, but they seldom strike the passive. We are all citizens of our community, but the community benefits more from our active participation, and so do we as individuals. Our involvement in activities, from sporting teams to cultural pursuits, to volunteering and membership of clubs or committees, makes right here a better place to live than anywhere else imaginable.

By continually building on and improving the contribution to community, we are leaving a legacy of opportunity, vibrancy, wealth and belonging to the generations to come.

I would like to propose a challenge to you all, and that is to set yourself an Australia Day resolution. Make a goal for your contribution to a positive and vibrant community. Inside each of us is the ability to make a difference and this will happen if we just let it out into the community.

Thank you and enjoy the Australia Day festivities with Big Lizzie!


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