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Rotuma and 2017 Valedictory Speech

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

There are many wonderful people I have come to know and respect during my time as a member of the Legislative Assembly – so many individuals and groups of people who embody what I would call a love for the things that God loves. I have witnessed charities full of good-hearted volunteers providing for our territory’s needy and vulnerable. I have witnessed dedicated people who deliver programs that provide assistance to the weak and the afflicted. I have witnessed everyday good people doing truly great things.

Some of these people, whom I would like to talk about this evening, are Canberra’s Rotuman community. Rotuma is a tiny island located about 650 kilometres north of Suva, the capital of Fiji. Only 2,000 Rotumans live on this island.

Although their island home has been a part of Fiji since 1881, the Rotumans have their own language and culture and a distinct history. Despite being comparatively few in number, their drive for excellence and goodness and their love for life and learning have made them a very recognisable minority group in that island nation.

An estimated 1,000 Rotumans live in Australia, only a fraction of whom live here in our beautiful city, but, as is the case in Fiji, their impact can certainly be felt despite their small numbers. Two weeks ago, it was my great honour to attend the first-ever Rotuman Island Night hosted by the Rotuma Association of ACT, an event that attracted 250 Canberrans of all backgrounds to a showcase of Rotuman culture and passion.

I was deeply touched by many things that transpired on this night. I would like to share one of them with the other members of this Assembly. After all the guests were seated, the master of ceremonies offered a welcome speech on his knees. This was intended as a sign of true humility and a gesture of affection to all who were in attendance.

This man, who works as an emergency doctor at one of Canberra’s hospitals, was born and raised here in Canberra but is fluent in the Rotuman language and well steeped in his culture through an education that was enable both by traditional oral transmission of culture and language as well years of dedicated study. He is a model of how people can appreciate their cultural inheritance whilst integrating it into a well-rounded modern Australian and global citizenship.

As I mentioned earlier, there are only 1,000 Rotumans in Australia, and so it would be easy for them to think they have little or nothing to offer, but that is not the kind of people they are. One of the objectives of the ACT Rotuma Association is to stimulate amongst the people of Australia an informed interest in Rotuma and its people, and to stimulate amongst the people of Rotuma an informed interest in Australia and its people. I can assure you that they certainly pulled this off at their Rotuman Island Night on 11 November.

As we near the end of this year and move into the Christmas season, Madam Speaker, I hope that we can all do better to emulate Canberra’s Rotuman community. Let us be humble and welcoming. Let us truly love people and not hold back in showing our affection to others. Let us live life with beauty and passion. I hope too that Canberrans will feel motivated to get back to their roots, to learn all that is good and ennobling from their traditional cultures.

Let us not think that we are too small, too unimportant or too few in number to have an impact. All we need in order to be a force for good is a determination that we are going to do it.

I am sincerely grateful for all the simple people who have touched me with their humility, their love, their goodness and their passion. I look forward to the coming year and the continued opportunity that is mine to serve the members of my electorate and the people of this territory.

Thank you.

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