Australia hosts “Australia Day” celebration in Pohnpei
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- Published: Wednesday, 08 February 2017 09:18
- Written by Bill Jaynes
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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
January 26, 2016
Pohnpei, FSM—The Australian Embassy hosted a reception at their housing compound to commemorate Australia Day, a commemoration of the arrival of the first fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788.
The ceremony began with a Pohnpeian sakau ceremony after which Second Secretary Eliza Woolcock welcomed the huge number of guests who had braved the weather to celebrate with the Australians.
Three girls from the Youth 4 Change choir delivered vocal performances of the Australian and FSM National Anthems.
Australia’s Ambassador George Fraser delivered the Australia Day address. In addition to being Australia’s Ambassador to the FSM, Palau, and RMI, Mr. Fraser is well read and an excellent writer.
He began his speech with a physical description of Australia as one of the “oldest and driest continents” in the world with comparable, though somewhat smaller size than the United States, Canada, or Brazil but with far fewer rivers. Australia’s comparatively small population of 24 million people tends to live where there is water in the coastal areas.
Though the Australia Day celebration commemorates what amounted to the beginning of European settlement of the continent beginning 229 years ago with the arrival of the first fleet, the Europeans were certainly not the first to arrive. Ambassador Fraser pointed out that the first settlers actually arrived approximate 60,000 years ago at the dawn of mankind, “where they adapted to harsh conditions and thrived, and they developed over 250 language groups before European settlement. They now represent only 3% of our population.”
“Our greatest migrations however have come in recent centuries – Fujian Chinese in the gold-rush days; Afghan camel drivers with their animals; Japanese pearl workers; the shameful so-called ‘black-birding’ era which brought Pacific-Islanders to work on Queensland sugar fields; and the great human flows following the World Wars and regional conflicts,” he said.
“The road to our current multiculturalism has not always been a smooth one, but it has become a great success. Including the 16 or so indigenous languages still actively used, there are about 300 languages spoken today in our country...
“You will often hear people on the (movie or television) screen or in real life say “fair go mate” as a protest against something that doesn’t appear equitable...The Australians you know are probably casual people but there are things they get serious about. We are concerned about injustice and inequity - at the government level and at a deeply personal one. This is one of the reasons multiculturalism has succeeded – most Australians want to see their fellow citizens treated fairly, no matter what their origin...
“In this vein, may I mention also the wise words of His Excellency President Christian on your National Day last November when he emphasized the importance of national unity, albeit with community and cultural variety. This thinking is at the heart of Australia’s multiculturalism...
“We are truly a migrant country and many people were, and continue to be welcomed as refugees. Australia consistently ranks in the top-three countries for resettlement of refugees referred by UNHCR. We have accepted over 840,000 such refugees since 1947, however, resettlement remains a hope for many, but a reality for only a few. This is why Australia continues to provide generous amounts of flexible and multi-year humanitarian and longer-term development assistance in countries of origin and first asylum,” he said and thanked the humanitarian partners they have funded in the FSM, RMI, and the Republic of Palau.
“...We want our neighbors, in the region and elsewhere, to be secure, stable and prosperous; and we want to see a rules-based global order in commercial and political spheres. These goals are as much in Australia’s interests as for our neighbors,” he said.
Australia recently received a seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first time it is also seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The Ambassador said Australia stands on its record of good international citizenship, particularly advancing the rights of women and girls; promoting good governance and stronger democratic institutions; promoting and protecting freedom of expression; advancing human rights for indigenous people around the world; and promoting strong human rights institutions and capacity building
As is his wont, Ambassador Fraser also used the opportunity of his speech to outline some of the scientific achievements of Australians. He said that while only half a percent of the world’s scientists are Australian, two percent of the world’s scientific developments have resulted from their work. He listed some of those surprising accomplishments, too numerous to mention in this short space.
“Australia sincerely values FSM’s cooperation in the many areas of common interest we share. I look forward to working with you to increase the breadth and depth of our countries relations over the coming year,” he said.
He then offered a toast to The President, government and people of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Deputy Secretary for the FSM Department of Foreign Affairs, Samson Pretrick spoke on behalf of the FSM. “We are grateful for the big role Australia plays in today’s society at the national, regional and international levels. You have not only accomplished so much in Australia and for Australians, but have reached out and touched so many lives in different parts of the world in education, security, human rights, volunteering and development. In our region, FSM very much recognizes and appreciates the assistance and efforts given to improve our communities at the grass-root level,” Pretrick said.
“...The friendship and goodwill between our two peoples underpin the shared political and economic relationship that we have, and I am convinced that by strengthening our people-to-people relationship, it will provide nourishment to our bilateral as well as multilateral relationship in very profound ways in the years to come.
“I would be remiss if I did not recognize the contributions that have been made by the government and the people of Australia on the ground (in the FSM) on a daily basis, such as the maritime surveillance advisors to the patrol boat program; to the FSM Transnational Crime Unit, and those who have generously volunteered their service to assist various national and state entities under the Pacific Partnership for Development scheme,” he said.
He proposed a toast to the Queen and to the people of Australia.
Father Ken Urumolug presented a grace and blessing over the ceremony after which a buffet dinner replete with Australian meat pies and sausages was served.
There was to have been a demonstration of cricket and a women’s basketball game between FSM and Australians but the weather did not cooperate.