This is the speech delivered by the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, to commemorate the Centenary of the Proclamation of Federation.
The Governor-General read a message from the Queen and initiated the celebrations of Australia’s Centenary of Federation, at a ceremony in Centennial Park, Sydney.
- Listen to Sir William Deane’s speech (6m)
We come together to Centennial Park to commemorate the proclamation of our Federation, at this place, one hundred years ago.
Together, we represent all Australians, across all States and Territories.
We also represent, as their heirs and beneficiaries, the four million people of the six Australian colonies who, “relying on the blessing of Almighty God”, came together as the Commonwealth of Australia on the First of January 1901.
We represent the generations of Australians, of so many different backgrounds, whose work in peace and sacrifice in war have built our country over the past century.
And we represent, especially through the young people and families here, the hopes and dreams of what Australia can be, in this generation and the generations to come.
So this gathering of Australians, including the nation’s constitutional and political leadership, symbolises the continuity of our history.
It also symbolises our democracy which is the cornerstone both of our nation and of these celebrations.
The strength and vigour of that democracy is based upon the inclusiveness of our society – the extent to which we ensure that no group or section of Australians is excluded from full participation in the benefits, opportunities and responsibilities of our national life. In that regard, on today of all days, we should be mindful of how our Constitution originally excluded the Aboriginal peoples of our country from both the national census and the power of the Parliament to make special laws.
That exclusion was remedied by the overwhelming vote of the Australian people in the 1967 Referendum which can now be seen as the real start of our search for true and lasting reconciliation.
That search is, in turn, part of a larger continuing journey together of all Australians – to be one people; strong in our unity; rich in our diversity.
Before Federation was achieved, a young Australian poet, William Gay, a schoolteacher from Bendigo, called upon his fellow-citizens to “rise, united and be one people.”
Sadly, William Gay died, three years before his vision could be fulfilled.
Now, as we enter the second century of our nationhood, his words, which were adopted by Alfred Deakin, have a renewed sense of purpose:
From all division let our land be free,
For God has made her one: complete she lies,
Within the unbroken circle of the skies,
And round her, indivisible, the sea,
Breaks on her single shore.
I now invite the representatives of all the States and Territories of the Commonwealth of Australia to join the Prime Minister and me in unveiling the plaques and signing the registers to commemorate our coming together as a nation to “be one people”, at this place and time one hundred years ago today.