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Australia Day 2012
An enduring feature of our landscape is fire and flood and drought. And this has given rise to a uniquely Australian characteristic - that of emergency service volunteering. Emergency service volunteering in Australia is in many ways unique. No other country in the world can boast the comprehensive and professional volunteer emergency services that we see here in Victoria and other states. Indeed, as I travel the globe, many countries look upon us and our emergency service arrangements with envy.
And so it is right that, on Australia Day 2012, we pay tribute to those men and women who make up the backbone of these essential services in organisations such as: CFA, SES, Surf Life Saving, Community Emergency Response Teams, Red Cross, St Johns and many other organisations. All these organisations have, as their core, volunteers. Volunteers who are ordinary men and women - they may be your neighbour, your boss, your employee, or the person passing you on the footpath or sitting next to you today. They are special people who give their own time and talents to serve others in their time of need. In the case of CFA, this service is often in situations where they take great risks and sometimes in circumstances where their own family and their own property are under threat.
To you men and women: you are model citizens. You share the characteristics of warriors. You have a sense of place and a commitment of service to the community in which you live, and to citizens across the state and the nation. This is well described by the inscription on the recently produced poster, "The Spirit of CFA":
"Hailing from all walks of life, you are fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, our grandparents, neighbours and our friends. You help protect us, without wanting recognition or reward. In our time of need you are there. Your courage and compassion are inspiring, your loyalty unquestionable. You comfort us with a tender hand. You stand at the face of nature's beast and fight for our lives and our land. You are the essence of the true meaning of community. You epitomise the Australian spirit, the spirit of CFA."
These words then describe you, as CFA members. You are the spirit of CFA and you are the spirit of Australia. On this 2012 Australia Day we pause to reflect on who and what we are, on where we have come from and where we are going. And we pause to give thanks to that wonderful family of men and women who are the emergency services volunteers of Victoria and of Australia.
That the future will continue to be uncertain, of this there is no doubt. We will continue to rely on the men and women of our emergency services. You are wonderful people and you do essential work. I thank you and I salute you.
I urge you - all of you - to stride boldly to the future. It is a future that does have risks and uncertainties, but it also has unbounded beauty and opportunity. To the youth of today, I will indulge myself by offering some advice: Firstly, I urge you to always do your best. Although the world you inherit is far from perfect, the key to happiness and success is by giving everything your best shot, first time, every time. That way you will never have any regrets.
Secondly, take care of your people and to take care of your "place". Mateship and taking care of each other is the foundation of compassion which is a hallmark of how strong a society is. We will be measured by how well we have taken care of our vulnerable people and our fragile environment.
Finally - and this is easier to say, than to do - always stay positive. The great leaders of history have always demonstrated resourcefulness and innovation, driven by hope and optimism. Being optimistic about the future, no matter how dark and bleak it may appear, will be essential for you. For it is through your energy, your enthusiasm and your positive example that you inspire others.