AUSTRALIA DAY 2015 – RYE AND SORRENTO
Cr Fraser – Today is a wonderful snapshot of our celebration of Australia Day 2015 on the Nepean Peninsula – barefoot bowling at Sorrento Bowls, talks from our 2011 Australian of the Year Simon McKeon AO at Sorrento and Rye, a Leunig poem read by Cr Rodgers at the Sorrento RSL, a lecture on our early Australian Rules Football clubs from Professor Robert Pasco at Dorothy Houghton’s Rye and Nepean Historical Societies luncheon at the Rye Hotel, music and flags on the Rye foreshore – sport and history, flags and fun, music and poetry – all on our one day of the year 2015.
But there are two other days of the year 2015 – the Centenary of Anzac when the combined military forces of Australia and New Zealand landed at Gallipoli in 1915. Then cast our eyes back another 100 years – a full 200 years – to 18 June 1815 when Wellington defeated the French armies of Napoleon at Waterloo – a small village just south of Brussels.
That battle ended 60 years struggle between France and Great Britain for world supremacy and ensured that Great Britain would dominate the 19th Century which it did both politically and economically. That dominance secured the tenuous foundations of the Australia we know today – the gold rushes, immigration, agriculture, manufacturing, culture and self-government of the Australian States through the 1850s and 1860 to federation as an independent sovereign nation in 1901 with the Australian Flag we celebrate today.
Within 15 years of Federation, with its tiny population, Australia mounted a substantial expeditionary military force to Gallipoli in 1915 and later, to the Western Front – ironically in France just 100 km south of Waterloo – and combined with some United States military units, an Australian army, under the command of that great Australian General Sir John Monash, defeated the German army in the field at Hamel and Mont St Quentin and the Great War was brought to an end in 1918.
These events exactly 100 and 200 years ago are a snapshot of modern Australian history.
But there is a wider context – and I acknowledge today the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first Australians and that they have lived here for thousands of years. The Boon wurrung/Bunurong, members of the Kulin Nation, have traditional connections on the land on which we meet here today and these waters of the Mornington Peninsula including the coast of Port Phillip and Westernport Bays.
However, it is much more than thousands years. It is tens of thousands of years stretching back 40,000 years when the volcanos of Flinders Peak, Mt Dandenong and Arthur’s Seat fell dormant. More recently 20,000 years ago – when Port Phillip Bay filled with water from rising sea levels and formed the shape we know today – their traditional lands formed a region stretching from what we now know to be Hobson’s Bay, all along the Bay to the Heads and around to Flinders and Westernport Bay including their hinterlands.
The Mornington Peninsula Shire now has the longest coast line and land mass remaining of the traditional land of the Boon wurrung/Bunurong. A further Australia Day thought worth considering is whether all this ought to be recognized by naming our wonderful Mornington Peninsula – the Boon wurrung/Bunurong Peninsula
Today our distinguished Australia Day Ambassador, Simon McKeon, will address us. He is an officer in the Order of Australia, Australian of the Year 2011, executive chair of Macquarrie Bank Melbourne, philanthropist and sportsman. He is well known to the Nepean Peninsula community as having established his environmental credentials as an original trustee of Point Nepean securing it as a National Park for the State and all Australians to use and enjoy.
There is an unresolved tension in the use of our National Park public open spaces for private development. There is the proposed private development of the historic Quarantine station in the Point Nepean State Park and also at the magnificent summit of Arthur’s Seat in the State Park where on a clear day we, like the traditional owners the Boonwurrung/Bunurong, can see the perimeters of their traditional lands and like them, we can sit on the top of the World and watch the stars.
Now, if the new Victorian Government permits this development in the National Park at Arthurs’s Seat, we are to share that summit experience with a mechanical gondola terminus and a restaurant with illuminations. We are all familiar with the Mt Dandenong “drive in” car park and tourist café. It is important that the development and environmental mistakes of the past are not repeated and I encourage everyone to take an active interest in that debate and to make your views known.
Australia Day is an occasion to reflect on the past, to appreciate our democratic federation of governments and to acknowledge our experiences and history of not only 100 or 200 years ago but also in the wider context of 40,000 years and to take care of our natural and historic environment.
Today we raise our Australian flag and give thanks for the peace and prosperity of this great nation.