Australia Day Ambassador

aust-daySusanne was in the Shire of Port Stephens on the 26th January 2012 to proudly give the Australia Day address.

aust-day1The following is  Susanne Gervay’s abbreviated Australia Day Address, given in the Wakool Shire in the Murray Basin 26th January 2011.

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land past and present – Wamba-Wamba nation.

I would also like to greatly thank Woolworths the sponsor of the Australia Day Ambassador programme and the Australia Day Council of NSW, Rod Chalmers Mayor of Wakool Shire, Linda Chalmers and the community for welcoming me here.

Wakool Shire is beautiful country with your inland rivers of the Murray and Wakool, creeks and billabongs. It’s sheep country on a grand scale, and there’s dairy, orchards and rice crops after twelve years of drought. This is pioneering country. It’s Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘My Country’, one of the poems I recited as a school girl growing up in Bondi:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

My family love this land. My father was a farmer in Hungary. He wanted to be a farmer here. That was one of his great dreams. He didn’t get there, but when the Royal Easter Show came to Sydney, he’d take my sister and me through the stalls looking at the cattle and livestock. He’d stop a while and talk farmer-talk. He always said that the land is part of you. He missed living on the land, but on Sunday afternoons, we’d pile into the old Morris Minor and head for the countryside.

My parents escaped from Hungary across mine fields in the dead of night. They left their home, belongings and everything they knew, for freedom. When Australia selected them from the Australian refugee camp to come to Australia, they were grateful.

As an author I write about that experience. I’d like to read from Next Stop The Moon, a book I wrote for my father, about growing up in Australia.

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Christmas

The three of us bought Mum an iron, a boring present, but that’s what she wanted …Then Mum and Dad give Thomas something wonderful – a small, crystal diamond. ‘To you my son. I am very proud of you. This is for the beautiful girl you will marry soon. The diamond comes from a long time ago, Thomas. From Hungary, when people were scared of wars and bad harvests and times when money was worthless. Then people would save a little money and buy small diamonds for a gold necklace, so that in the bad years they could change such things for food and somewhere to live.’ My bother nods. ‘We brought these diamonds when we came to this country. We were not allowed to bring them in. it was the law then.’

I’ve heard this story before. Dad swallowed a bag with the diamonds inside. ‘These diamonds belonged to your mother’s great-great-grandparents.’

Mum and Dad bought nothing else much with them – clothes, some linen, a few other things. They never sold the diamonds, even when they had to share a house with strangers, they never sold the diamonds. It was like a memory from before they migrated. They felt safe holding them and they were right. They made it without selling the diamonds.

My father says, ‘Australia is the best country. We are free to work here. If we work hard we make a good life.’ Mum and Dad are Australian citizens. They did that as soon as they were allowed to ‘because this is our country now.’

I have spoken all over the world from New York, Ubud, Beijing, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, India to Bologna, but speaking here on Australia Day in the Shire of Wakool means so much more to me . I wish my parents were here today. I thank you for the privilege of sharing Australia Day with you.

Susanne Gervay
Australia Day Ambassador

Other ambassadors have included:

  • Writers – Thomas Keneally, Libby Hathorn, Bryce Courtney, Maurice Saxby
  • Sports people – Mike York Captain of the Australian Hockey Team, Dean Widden Rugby player, Parramatta Eeels, Mal Melinga Rugby League icon
  • Singers – Marcia Hines, David Campbell, Angry Anderson
  • Journalists and TV personalities – Ita Buttrose, Belinda Green Miss World, Don Burke
  • People who have changed the world – Gough Whitlam former Prime Minister, Clary Castrission Founder of 40K creating education for poor Indian children, Ian Keirnan Founder of Clean Up Australia, Dick Smith
  • Human Rights leaders in all fields – Police, Law, Indigenous…