To All Australians
State of the Nation Address
26th January, 2015
Fellow Australians, it is with pleasure and pride that I have the opportunity to fly through time and be with you to celebrate our National Day. It is 226 years since we reached these golden sun-kissed shores. What a blessing that was, after sailing 10,000 and more miles from England. We departed on the 13th May, 1787 and arrived on the 19th January 1788 – a journey that took us 252 days. I can assure you, after so long on the high seas, we cheered as “the Great Southern Land”, as it was known, came into sight.
What a voyage it was. All we had to guide us was a rough map drawn by Captain Cook. He had visited a place that he called Botany Bay, 18 years earlier and stayed for only about a week. I was asked to lead an expedition to establish a new colony called New South Wales, following advice to King George III and his ministers by Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who sailed with Captain Cook.
On board the 11 ships, we had convicts, marines, administrators, sailors, clergy and the wives and families of crew members. Records of how many people were on the voyage vary, but it was in the region of 1420 souls. Some died on the journey and others were born. Each day we said our prayers for survival and success in our new country.
On arrival, I quickly realized that Botany Bay could not provide sustenance for all of our people.
So, in a small boat, I sailed northwards, with some marines, and found the best harbour in the world. A thousand ships of the line could have sheltered there.
We moved to Port Jackson, as it was first called, on the 26th January, 1788. That is why it is now celebrated as Australia’s National Day – despite the fact it was seven days after our arrival.
In due course, I re-named it Sydney Town, after Lord Sydney, his Majesty’s Minister who had authorized our mission. On reflection, I should have called it Phillip City. In that way, I would have received better recognition for my leadership efforts.
In celebrating the anniversary of our arrival, it is useful to note some of the major decisions that I made in the first year of our arrival.
I stressed that:-
- there would be no slavery.
- although we were the world’s largest prison, convicts should be treated as human beings and given the opportunity to work and reform.
- marriage was a right of all men and women and on February 10th, I arranged for a member of the clergy to marry three couples.
- equality before the law was essential and I gave permission for the first civil law case to take place, when a convict, called Cable, won a famous victory against a captain of a ship, over money that he had kept, belonging to the plaintiff.
- the native inhabitants should be treated with respect, and that we should try to learn their aboriginal languages in order to understand their culture and way of life.
- religious views and faiths would be tolerated, so long as they did not threaten the colony.
- order was vital and powers were given to officers to uphold the law.
- the development of the economy was a priority for survival and men should be put to work and rewarded properly for their effort.
- convicts who served their time should be freed and encouraged to make a successful life in our colony.
- health facilities, although basic, should be developed.
- defence of our small colony should be a maintained
You may look at this list and ask what you would have done. Indeed, 226 years after we landed, how effective has Australia been in developing all of these issues?
So, as your first politician, let me ask you some questions. To what extent do you feel the values that I tried to install are being upheld with regard to:-
- human rights?
- reform of convicts?
- justice and a fair go for all levels of society?
- encouragement of economic development.?
- respect for authority?
- appreciation and acceptance of the monarchy?
- the importance of training and education?
- tolerance of religious views?
- the importance of defence?
- the development of our culture and understanding of other people’s culture?
My fellow Australians, I tell you that it was not easy to lead and manage the New South Wales Colony. We were left to fend for ourselves for two and a half years until the 3rd June, 1790. We were starving and in desperate need of help.
We felt abandoned and, each day, we anxiously searched the horizon for a ship. Nearly 1000 days had passed since we had arrived. All of my leadership skills and resources were stretched to the limit, keeping men, women and children alive, although some tragically perished. But, in their own way, each one of them was amazing.
We all learned a great deal from the hardships of life that we endured. I trust that you will exhibit the same strength and determination of the first colonists to make your life in this great country a success.
Stand up and salute all Australians through the ages that have contributed to our great country. May you continue the tradition that we set, of creating and developing an amazing country for amazing people.
Blessings to all,
Footnote: Arthur Phillip was the Governor of New South Wales, and in effect Australia, for nearly 5 years from the 19th January, 1788 to the 10th December, 1792. This story is based on the what Dr Charles Margerison, a psychologist and President of The Amazing People Club, thinks that Governor Phillip would have said about Australia Day.