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Your Excellency, the Romanian Ambassador to Australia, Ms Nineta Bărbulescu, distinguished Honorary Consul Mrs Ileana Corban, distinguished representatives of the Consular Corps and the Honorary Consular Corps in South Australia, ladies and gentlemen.
We acknowledge this land that we meet on today is the traditional lands for Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with their country.
We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.
It is an honour for me this evening to speak to you all at this important event.
Australia is home to people from virtually every country in the world. The establishment of the Romanian Honorary Consulate here in Adelaide reflects this.
More importantly, by establishing its Honorary Consulate, the Romanian Government is itself making a valuable contribution to the multiculturalism that is such an important feature of modern Australia.
Just over a week ago, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the details of the 2016 Census. It paints a wonderful picture of Australia’s diversity. We come from nearly 200 countries with more than 300 different ancestries, we speak over 300 languages, and we practise over 100 religions. A third of us claim to have no religion.
More than a quarter of Australia’s population was born overseas, and half of us had at least one parent born overseas, prompting the ABS to call us “a nation of nations”.
“A nation of nations” is a lovely description of the sort of racial and ethnic diversity that defines our form of multiculturalism. There is something particularly poignant in the fact that we are celebrating the establishment of the Romanian Honorary Consulate here in Adelaide’s Migration Museum, since migration has been one of the core building blocks of modern Australia.
There are two features of our multicultural society that I wish to touch on this evening.
The first is values. The inherent strength of a multicultural and pluralist society such as Australia comes from the fact that we share a values framework. It is a framework that both brings us together, and that protects and energises the cultural and ethnic individuality of the communities that constitute our society. The success of Australia as a multicultural society depends on the respect, acceptance, inclusion and compassion that we display one for another. These are central to our practice of Australia’s vibrant democracy.
Recent discussion about values in a number of Western countries, including Australia, in the context of citizenship requirements might suggest that values offer a tool for exclusion or, more dangerously, a tool for political division. The reality is, however, that values are the ideals that we all share, that unify us. And as such, they should be upheld and reinforced as basic underpinnings of our democracy.
The second feature of our multicultural society that I wish to allude to is identity. To maintain a society that is both harmonious and heterogeneous, each of us needs to have a secure sense of our own identity. And this is where our embassies, consulates and honorary consulates play such an important role, especially at the local level. To identify as a member of a particular national or ethnic group strengthens identity for people as individuals. And for national and ethnic groups to be able to identify their home nation through its physical presence in our broader national community provides both focus and cohesion.
Most of us here tonight identify as Australians. And many of us identify as Australians with a special and valuable national or ethnic background that both enhances our sense of ‘Australian-ness’ and strengthens our pride in the contribution we individually make to the great community that is Australia. And some of us are privileged to identify ourselves as Australians with both a national and ethnic heritage. I certainly am one of those.
So people of Romanian origin in South Australia now have an Honorary Consulate to provide them with consular services. Such is Adelaide’s diversity that, besides the three Consulates-General in Adelaide, Romania’s is the thirty seventh Honorary Consulate to open its doors – a consequence of Mr Justice Rauf Soulio’s tireless efforts on behalf of two countries, so Mrs Corban joins distinguished company.
Honorary Consulates are really about people-to-people relations. Romania is establishing its Honorary Consulate here because South Australians of Romanian origin live here. As Her Excellency will tell us in a few minutes, Australia and Romania enjoy cordial bilateral relations with plenty of room for growth. Romania is sixty fifth on the list of Australia’s trading partners, and one hundred and fifth on our list of tourist destinations. So I expect that Her Excellency’s Foreign Minister has identified trade and tourism as two of her Key Performance Indicators as Ambassador.
In that task, Her Excellency will be greatly assisted, in South Australia at least, by having an Honorary Consulate that can provide both linkage and a point of reference to both the Romanian community and the broader South Australian community.
So it is with that confidence in the Honorary Consulate’s ability to play a significant communal role that I have the honour of declaring the Romanian Honorary Consulate ‘established’.