Victor Perton's Keynote Speech for Africause Australia Day Event 2024

Victor Perton's Keynote Speech for Africause Australia Day Event 2024
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Esteemed guests, esteemed colleagues, and cherished friends,

Tonight, as we gather under the auspices of Africause, we celebrate a vision that "seeks to empower African Australians in all facets of Australian life and foster an inclusive and equitable society for all."

I see my role tonight as multifaceted: to express gratitude for the Australia we cherish, to celebrate the leadership of the African emigre community in our nation, and to envision a bright future fueled by the community's optimism for a better world for themselves, our country, and beyond.

This Australia Day evening, I honour our distinguished leaders who are present (Victor named the guests and award winners and others)

Your tireless leadership contributions have significantly shaped our shared society.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's words yesterday resonate with profound optimism. His declaration, "On the eve of Australia Day, I am more optimistic about Australia than ever before," shared a vision of hope and determination, urging us to elevate our nation to new heights. This vision stems not from chance but from our shared values and concerted efforts.

A Present We Can Be Grateful For

Many of us here tonight share a common narrative as migrants or refugees or as children of those who sought new beginnings in Australia.

My family's journey to this land began in 1950 as stateless refugees. My mother, who lived under the harsh dictatorships of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, found a haven in Australian democracy. She valued the freedom to speak one's mind in Australia, a stark contrast to her life under oppressive regimes.

Imagine Australia, a beacon of hope on the world stage, not just for its achievements but for its unwavering spirit in the face of challenges. This is the Australia we can create together.

We already stand tall, with one of the highest healthy lifespans in the world, a testament to our healthcare and lifestyle. Our low crime rates and abundance of food paint a picture of stability and security. We push the boundaries of medical science, making an actual difference in global health, like cancer care and prevention. Our sustainable practices in agriculture and mining showcase our innovative spirit and commitment to a greener future.

Yet, our journey isn't without its hurdles. The pain of past injustices continues to echo in the lives of our Indigenous communities, demanding further action towards reconciliation and true equality. Climate change casts a shadow on our future, urging us to take bold steps towards a sustainable world.

These challenges are not insurmountable burdens but springs propelling us forward. Our robust social fabric is the canvas upon which we paint a brighter future—our dedication to research and innovation fuels groundbreaking solutions. We can create a truly extraordinary Australia by embracing our leadership role and tackling internal issues with the same passion we apply to global achievements.

And it's happening. Just down the road, Yarra Valley Water has been named a world leader in climate leadership as it trends to have net-zero carbon by 2025 or earlier.

Can We Restore Australia's Relentless Optimism

Australia's greatest strength lies in its inherent optimism.

Admired worldwide for our relentlessly optimistic yet casual style of leadership disposition, we used to believe in our national potential. But let's be honest, that optimism is dimming. Depression, fear, and anxiety are on the rise, with nearly one in five Australians relying on antidepressants.

Nothing is more vital than fostering hope and resilience in the next generation. We must rekindle the spirit that has always defined us, the unwavering belief in a brighter tomorrow. This won't be easy, but it's essential. Let's harness our strengths, address our weaknesses, and rekindle the optimism that makes Australia extraordinary.

The Australian Leadership Project I founded aimed to decipher the paradox of domestic scepticism about Australian leadership while we were admired from afar. Our study concluded that the problem was not one of leadership but that of a "fog of pessimism."

The Future: We Need Optimists for the Next Hard Yards

Robert Masters AM, Chair of the Centre for Optimism and my esteemed friend, was honoured today for embodying this leadership. He has always emphasised, "Leadership and optimism are the two key elements the community wants in today's unsettled world."

We laud Richard Scolyer and Georgina Long, the 2024 Australians of the Year, whose achievements in medical science and personal resilience exemplify the transformative power of optimism in life's various spheres.

Nelson Mandela

There have been many great African leaders and so too many outstanding African-Australian leaders in our community.

Of course, the name that resonates with African leadership globally is Nelson Mandela.

I have been the principal sponsor of the Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit, bringing together African-Australian and other Australian youth in the historic Victorian Parliamentary chambers for the last two years.

Last year, I was honoured to be Oration for the Nelson Mandela Day Australia Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am reminded each week of Mandela's profound words: "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed towards the sun, one's feet moving forward."

This quote captures the essence of the leadership we strive to cultivate — a resilient, forward-thinking, and eternally optimistic leadership.

African Australian Contempray Leadership

The African emigre community's dynamic leadership in Australia, which we celebrate tonight, aligns perfectly with Africause's empowering vision. Your contributions underscore the strength and vibrancy of our multicultural nation, epitomising inclusive, inspiring, and optimistic leadership.

Tonight's gathering celebrates what makes Australia remarkable: our natural beauty or cultural richness and the people. You all contribute to our community's well-being, enriching our national discourse and advancing our collective aspirations.

Tonight, we celebrate the achievements and leadership of the African Australian community and recognise our nation's broader context. This nation has provided a haven and fertile ground for dreams to flourish. Our celebration is a testament to the strength and vibrancy of our multicultural country, where diverse communities contribute significantly to our collective narrative of progress and hope.

Magnetic Optimism

In facing these challenges, the role of optimists becomes crucial. Optimism is not just about maintaining a positive outlook; it's about actively working towards making positive societal changes.

In my workshops, I strive to mould leaders into beacons of infectious optimism. We work on painting tapestries of possibility with their words, radiating unwavering belief and anchoring teams to melt away doubt. We celebrate progress and personal contributions, crafting narratives of hope that shimmer with promise and draw individuals into the gravitational pull of a collective dream. This is where leaders become constellations, igniting their teams with a shared purpose and creating luminous trails of positivity that ripple outward.

Over the past year, I have focused on inspiring people with a lifetime mission after training in optimism: To embrace "magnetic optimism."

This form of optimism is active and engaging, drawing others into proactive participation in our planet's future. It cultivates a mindset that sees the potential for positive change and spreads positivity through smiles, eye contact, laughter, storytelling, and positive questioning. It's an optimism so tangible and alluring that it inspires people to reach out and touch a future brimming with possibilities. Magnetic optimism is more than just a passive hope; it's an active force that guides innovators and leaders in inspiring their communities to craft a better tomorrow.

It draws people towards your leadership. Can we make magnetic optimism the winning trait of our emerging young African Australian leaders?

As we conclude this evening's celebration, let us carry forward the spirit of hope and optimism.

Let us embrace leadership that overcomes challenges and transforms them into stepping stones for a brighter future.

As the Prime Minister said, let our collective optimism drive our community, nation, and world towards a sustainable, thriving, and inclusive future.

Thank you, and happy Australia Day.




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