New Zealand High Commission Canberra, Australia

80th Anniversary of the Canberra Club

On 5 February Acting New Zealand High Commissioner Vangelis Vitalis addressed the 80th Anniversary of the Canberra Club. His speech is below.

Speech for the 80th Anniversary of the Canberra Club
Vangelis Vitalis
Acting High Commissioner
New Zealand High Commission, Canberra
5 February 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished Guests.

Let me begin by thanking the Canberra Club and its Board particularly President Rawson for the kind invitation to speak to you this evening.

Nau mai haere mai.

Tomorrow is New Zealand’s National Day - Waitangi Day - and this will be the 171st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi that gave birth to New Zealand as a modern state.

I am therefore particularly pleased to be speaking with you this evening, less than twelve hours before my own country’s National Day.

I want also on this very auspicious day to recall the ANZAC day events - I know this is something where the Canberra Club has a particularly fine and honourable tradition.

The Australian historian Clive Bean reminders us that:

“Day and night Australians and New Zealanders had fought on that hilltop [in Gallipoli]. In this fierce test, each saw in the other a brother’s qualities…Three days of genuine trial had established a friendship which centuries will not destroy.” 1

As the ANZAC legend and numerous international conflicts since then testify, in our blood spilt on distant battlefields there is a shared memory and an understanding between us of what it means to be a New Zealander, to be an Australian.

As I said at the outset, I mention ANZAC Day because I know what a powerful and potent symbol that is for this Club. You had your first commemoration of ANZAC day in 1931 - though the Club was closed as a mark of respect.

In 1957 a decision was made to hold an ANZAC Day lunch and this fine tradition continues to this day.

I was honoured to be invited to address you last year on ANZAC Day, thereby continuing the long history of my High Commission’s involvement in the Club’s ANZAC Day commemorations.

We all know the story of the ANZACs at Gallipoli.

We learnt then in the terrible heat of battle that by and large Australia and New Zealand do better when they work together. We believe that principle remains as true today as it was then - except perhaps on the sports field!

In this regard, let me mention only the fact that we will be hosting the Rugby World Cup again and this may the one time where passionate New Zealanders will not be wishing Australia well - though I expect the same will be true of Australians and the All Blacks.

The outpouring of sympathy and the open handed generosity of New Zealanders and Australians following the recent flooding across Australia, the Canterbury earthquake and the Pike River Mining disaster are moving reminders of the closeness of our relationship.

In each case, our countries were the first to provide one another with messages of support and, most importantly, immediate practical and unstinting assistance. As all true friends do, we did not ask ‘what can we do?’ We simply rolled up our sleeves and got on with it. No fuss, no bother, no expense spared. That is what friends are for.

And as Queensland emerges from Cyclone Yasi, our thoughts are with all Queenslanders during this difficult time. In a practical sense we have already been in touch for some time with the authorities in Queensland to discuss the help it may need and next week our Consul-General will be in Queensland to see what may be needed. It will not be a question of ‘if we can help’ but how we can help.

This is the nature of a friendship that has been forged, not only during military conflicts and not just by crippling natural disasters, but in economic, scientific, artistic and business endeavour, on sporting fields too and in the rich exchange between us of people and ideas.

Clubs like this one have a key role in fostering and facilitating the relationships between our countries - and there really are no countries closer than ours.

Earlier this week, I was honoured to unveil a memorial to Harry Holland. He is one of the few people from the Australian Capital Territory to have risen to prominence in politics, albeit New Zealand politics rather than your own.

Harry Holland emigrated from Australia to New Zealand in 1912. He was the first Parliamentary leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, but while his branches may be in New Zealand, his roots are certainly in Ginninderra, just outside this city and it was my pleasure to unveil with the Chief Minister earlier this week a fitting tribute to a son of Australia who is a founding father of New Zealand’s Labour movement.

Indeed, New Zealand and Australia’s rich shared history is symbolised by immigrants like Harry Holland. It is underpinned by a remarkable correlation in the fundamentals that bind us - a bedrock of shared civil values and aspirations which define us as New Zealanders and Australians.

For our two immigrant countries, a national identity is constructed on the ethos of participation. That participation is neither ethnic, locational nor cultural. It is founded instead on the set of shared civil values which bind us as New Zealand and Australian citizens.

These shared civil values include our concept of mateship; the ‘can-do’ practical attitude that defines us and our commitment to a concept that is uniquely trans-Tasman - the concept of a “fair go”.

And it is these civil values which I think Clubs like yours and their brother and sister organisations in New Zealand foster and inspire so very well.

Our relationship continues. Both the ADF and the NZDF cooperate closely, both in deployments in places such as Timor Leste and Solomon Islands, and in the development of a joint ANZAC Ready Response Force which Prime Ministers proposed a year and a half ago will allow us to better meet future contingencies, particularly in the region.

But in the contemporary world the ANZAC ideal needs to go well beyond the defence area.

That is why our two countries collaborate very closely internationally on everything from peace keeping, to nuclear disarmament, from trade to banning hazardous chemicals. The list is endless.

We are working too on deepening and broadening our economic integration - for these are exciting but challenging times.

To my mind the main reason why the fundamentals of the relationship are currently in such good shape is that our people both have a much better understanding of one another than they did even as recently as the turn of the century.

In large part this is because so many more Australians now visit New Zealand regularly, with in excess of one million visitor arrivals now recorded annually. And the numbers going in your direction are similarly large.

Australians like what they’ve seen (and come back for more). And, importantly, they have come to understand that New Zealand too has succeeded in building a vibrant, tolerant and well-functioning society and one that is a good friend of Australia.

For me all of this deeper and wider integration simply underlines the seamless nature of our two countries’ shared histories.

Perhaps when Harry Holland and the other Australians that have come to New Zealand looked up at the Southern Cross in our sky, they may have reflected that this was the same constellation they could see in Pohangina, Christchurch, Miramar, Auckland, Waggawagga, Brisbane, Gungalin and Canberra.

For, as the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, once said, we all share the same sky, it is only our horizons that are different.

I’d like to think that this was what Harry, and the many other Australians that made the decision to come to New Zealand, thought as they came across to our country to help enlarge our horizons.

I’d like to think too that the nearly half a million Kiwis living here think the same thing when they look up at the stars above them in this the same sky which covers us both.

We both recognise that we are each other’s closest ally, partner and friend. The core values that underlie what has for so long been termed the ANZAC spirit remain as valid today as they were nearly a century ago. We believe that these as well as our shared history continue to provide a framework on which to construct the strongest possible partnership.

This Club in all its tradition and with all its venerable history is a testimony to our relationship - and I am proud that I have been able to come and speak to you now twice in less than a year. I look forward to the continuation of this tradition of New Zealand involvement in your significant events - for at least another hundred years - and who knows perhaps I will be here for that.

The Maori proverb inscribed on the wall of the New Zealand War Memorial in Canberra is how our relationship should be - Mau tena kiwai o te kete, maku tenei - “Each of us at a handle of the basket”.

And finally, whether it is in sport, on the battle field, in scientific endeavour, driving together for economic prosperity in the region and beyond or working together in international organisations or coming to Canberra Club events such as this one - there is one constant that unites us in this uncertain world - New Zealand and Australia will always be mates - something which, as Clive Bean reminds us, ‘centuries will not destroy.’

Thank you again ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests and to this fine Club - happy anniversary.

(1)Bean, C.E.W. (1981) The Story of ANZAC: From the Outbreak of War to the End of the First Phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4 1915, St Lucia (QLD), University of Queensland Press in association with the Australian War Memorial, 510, 16


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