Thursday, 12 May 2022

I warmly welcome you to Government House, albeit from upstairs in COVID isolation, to present the Governor’s Civics Awards for Schools.

I thank the students here today for your hard work and engaging in one of the most important aspects of being a South Australian – active citizenship.

While not wanting to single out anyone’s work, I will quote from two students’ entries, as I think they encapsulate what is at the heart of these awards:

Firstly, a good democratic system requires all its society to be involved, including the young and secondly, diversity in our society is not what makes us different and unusual in a bad way, diversity is what makes us unique and terrific people, in a good way.

As many have indicated, by knowing our past, we can contribute to our future.

These awards were founded by my esteemed predecessor, The Honourable Hieu Van Le AC.

From the time he and his wife Lan stepped onto Australian soil as Vietnamese refugees, he worked hard to ensure people recognised how our multicultural society and democratic system bring strength to our community.

I am honoured to continue his vision in this the fourth year of the awards, and I look forward to helping them grow.

In my former role as an Australian diplomat, I observed how governments work in many other countries, and I know that here we have a good and fair system.

Not perfect, but pretty good and a better system when we all exercise our rights and responsibilities and put forward ideas for improvement.

I am a sixth generation South Australian and am proud of how my parents, grandparents, great grandparents and their grandparents helped shape our State.

We are a State of many firsts:

  • We were the first place in Australia to grant women the vote, and amongst the first in the world.
  • We were founded on the principles of a free democracy which encouraged diversity, free thinking and free enterprise.
  • The City of Adelaide was the first elected town council in Australia.
  • We were the first Australian colony to adopt the legal provision that evidence from Aboriginal people could be accepted in courts of law.

I mention only a few, but historic events such as these are something of which we should all be proud.

They are a firm foundation on which to carry forward our State’s tradition of fairness, democracy and social innovation.

During my term as Governor, I am going to try to visit all high schools to talk about the role of this office in our system of government and also to encourage more students across the State to participate in the awards, because I believe they are important.

I am also using South Australia’s first-ever vice-regal Insta account @governorsouthaustralia to spread the word about the constitutional, ceremonial and community role of Governor and about these awards!

Many of the 2021 Primary School individual category winners were presented with their medallions at the Old Gum Tree ceremony on Proclamation Day.

It was wonderful to see these young people with their parents on such a special day at such a special place.

Because COVID restrictions limited numbers on that day, I can now welcome you, the other award winners here at another special place, Government House.

I hope you have enjoyed participating in the awards and gained much from your projects. Congratulations on your efforts.

Please tell your friends and encourage them to get involved in this year’s awards program, which I am pleased to launch today.

Because, and again I quote from an entry: The young people of today are the adults of the future, and all of us can help society to change for the better.

By taking an interest in the Governor’s Civics Awards program, you’ve shown your willingness to play your part and I encourage you to continue to do so.