Statement of commitment to Canberra and launch of Centenary of Canberra, Canberra
MON 12 MARCH 2012
I begin by honouring the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects in the spirit of reconciliation to Elders past and present.
We meet in a spirit of friendship on country made sacred by unbroken centuries of custodianship and care.
One hundred and eight words; that’s how Canberra came about.
Just 108 words, which together comprise Section 125 of our Constitution.
From those modest words, a mature, confident city has grown up.
A city Walter Burley Griffin created as the capital for a country of “bold democrats”.
Just as we made a new nation, so we made a new capital.
Canberra wasn’t just a clever solution to a vexing political problem.
It gave expression in urban shape and form to the values that define us as a people.
This is a democratic city.
A city close to nature.
A city that didn’t seek to emulate the grandeur of its Old World peers.
And, of course, it is a city wisely named from among the ancient languages of its First Peoples – a stunning act of Reconciliation before the term Reconciliation was even known.
In a special way, Canberra belongs to every Australian.
Many children come here in Year 6.
Many Australians endeavour to visit it at least once in their lives.
And many new migrants come here soon after settlement because of the kind of civic pilgrimage it represents.
No citizen who comes to the city is a stranger.
So the Canberra Centenary is a celebration for every Australian, and I am delighted by the leadership being shown originally by Jon Stanhope and now by Katy Gallagher in preparing for it.
As the modern custodians of our capital, you know how much this anniversary means, and I’m very proud of the team you’ve drawn together led by two living national treasures, Sir William Deane as Patron and Robyn Archer as Creative Director.
I know you are preparing a strong program of events and commemorative projects, and I wish Robyn and her team every success.
I’m also delighted the Commonwealth has been able to make a contribution through the redevelopment of Constitution Avenue and the National Arboretum.
And today I want to go further by making a formal and public commitment on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia to the role and significance of Canberra in the life of our nation.
Today I commit the Commonwealth to continuing to build and grow the nation’s capital, its cultural institutions and its role as the focus of ceremonial, parliamentary and national leadership.
I commit to Canberra remaining the heart of the Australian Public Service and the primary location of government departments and agencies.
I pledge a deep and enduring partnership between the Commonwealth and the ACT legislatures and between the governments of the Commonwealth and the ACT to foster and develop a strong and flourishing city.
A city which reflects the national pride we take in this, our bush capital; the respect we pay to our war dead and the vision of our founding leaders so elegantly realised in the plans of Walter Burley Griffin.
We make these commitments with a spirit of pride in Canberra’s past and absolute confidence in its future.
As this city begins the count-down to its centenary, I say to all Australians:
Canberra is a success; our collective success over ten decades.
And it deserves to be celebrated.
What we are really celebrating, in a sense, is our ability as a nation and a people to get things right.
Whether in designing a constitution, introducing the basic wage and the old age pension or founding Canberra in that first decade after Federation through to multiculturalism and charting a way through the Asian Century in our own times, we are a people that gets the big calls right.
So I want this to be a celebration of Canberra as our capital.
But also a celebration of our characteristic ability to get things right and the confidence and astuteness that we’ve brought to the task of building the institutions of our nation.
In that spirit, I proudly launch the program to celebrate this, Canberra’s centennial year. 99 going on 100.
I affirm the Statement of Commitment made on behalf of the nation today.
And I look forward to joining Canberrans and all Australians in celebrating the contribution this city has made to all the success and identity of the country we love so much.