South Australia: Australia Day Address

Australia Day AddressMs Philippa Rowland, Chair – Religions for Peace Australia and President – Multifaith Association of South Australia was invited by the Ahmadiyya Association of South Australia to give one address at their Australia Day Celebrations, on 26 January 2023.

Ahmadiyya South Australia Day Celebrations 26 January 2023
Noor Mosque, Hillier Road, Morphettvale
Australia Day Presentation

Philippa Rowland, Chair of Religions for Peace Australia and President of Multifaith SA

Greetings. I pay my respects to Kaurna and Peremangk Elders of the Adelaide Plains and Hills and to all other First Nations Elders past, present and yet to come across Australia.

This vast and ancient land is blessed with sun and wind, rivers and sea, rich in renewable resources and capable of helping our world transition from climate-damaging fossil fuels into a safer, cleaner future.

I am delighted to quote our newest Australian of the Year, South Australian Taryn Brumfitt who acknowledged that “collectively we are facing some of the most challenging environmental, humanitarian, social issues of our time.” With her key work in Body Image, she went on to say:

“What if, instead of spending our days consumed in hating our bodies, we could invest our time together to solve those challenges.”

Over the years I have been deeply grateful for the active support of the Ahmadiyya community in various interfaith prayers and activities organised by the Multifaith Association of South Australia. Most recently, your Imam shared prayers in a beautiful #Faith4ClimateAction gathering held in the Anglican Church of St John’s in Halifax St, calling on our new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to heed the voices of science and of faith and move swiftly to act for a safe climate future for all.

Many communities are experiencing climatic disasters. We need look no further than Pakistan, where 33 million people are still suffering after unprecedented floods covered 1/3 of the land.

We have now reached the predicted stage of increased frequency and intensity of extreme events and can no longer pretend that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

Several members of our Multifaith SA committee have now trained as Disaster and Recovery Chaplains – co-ordinated by the Uniting Church in SA but now open to people of all faiths. I had the honour of volunteering in Lobethal after the 2019 Cudlee Creek fires, and just these last few weeks in the Mannum Recovery Centre after the recent floods along the Murray River. It is a privilege to be able to help. I encourage anyone interested to follow up with me afterwards.

Despite its sometimes harsh and unforgiving landscapes, Australia has been home to the oldest continually surviving cultures in the world – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I am glad that Australia Day has begun to transform from a celebration of colonisation by force on one ‘white’ hand and the ‘sorry day’, ‘’invasion day’ of mourning dispossession, disparagement and despair on the other ‘dark’ hand.

I am glad that our celebrations are now becoming more respectful, more inclusive of culture, faith and ethnicity – and most importantly, beginning to more genuinely acknowledge and uphold the values and rights of First Nations.

Last night, like many, I listened to the Australia Day Awards and was deeply moved to hear Professor Tom Calma’s speech after receiving the Elder, Senior Australian of the Year Award. Like him, and many others, I too believe that this year is our 1967 moment – a chance when we can stand side by side with First Nations communities across Australia and the Torres Strait as our Country votes in a Referendum on a First Nations’ “Voice to Parliament.”

I was so moved that I transcribed it and share just a little here in closing:

“Recent polls of attitudes to Reconciliation show 95% of Australian votes believe it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a say in matters that affect them”

“A Voice is symbolic, as it includes First Nations in the Foundation document of our Country – it addresses the injustice of past exclusions and provides a healing for the Future.”

“The Voice is not about special rights for First Peoples – All Australians will remain equal in the eyes of the Law.”

“The Parliament will be under no obligation to follow the Voice’s advice. The Referendum is not a choice between improving people’s lives or amending the Constitution. We can do both – but it will require bipartisanship.”

“Let’s do this together, as we did in the 1967 Referendum and the Bridge Walks in 2000.
Walk with Us. Vote Yes in the Referendum”.

So these are the words of Professor Tom Calma, 2023 Senior Australian of the Year.

It is not for the Multifaith Association of South Australia to tell people how to vote. Yet I believe there is a valuable role for Multifaith, Multicultural Dialogue Circles – dialogue that won’t tell people how to vote, but explain what this is all about and why it is so important that all Australians make a fully informed Vote. Let us work together in this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Thank you for listening.
Happy Australia Day.


Australia Day Address