The Mayor of Liverpool City Council – Ms Wendy Waller;
Member for Holsworthy, Parliamentary Secretary for Families, Disability and Emergency Services –
Ms Melanie Gibbons;
Shadow Minister for Communication, Member for Greenway – Ms Michelle Rowland;
His Excellency Fiji’s High Commissioner to Australia – Mr Luke Daunivalu;
Ms. Barbara Ward and Mr. Allan Gock on behalf of Fiji Day Organising Committee;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and good afternoon.
It’s a great joy to be with you all in Liverpool as we come together to celebrate Fiji Day, marking 49 years as a proud and independent nation.
As we gather at Woodward Park just outside of Sydney, I’m glad to see a slice of the same patriotism that was on full display last week across every Division in Fiji – including our national celebrations in Albert Park, which I had the pleasure of attending with my wife, Mary. I hope that some of you were able to get a glimpse of our commemorations through the photos and videos that were shared on Facebook, but even those didn’t quite do the day justice.
Having endured a day’s-long streak of torrential rainfall in Suva that threatened to move all of our celebrations indoors, I know God was smiling down on Fiji that day – because we couldn’t have asked for better weather on that sunny tenth of October.
We started the morning with a full Military parade from the RFMF, the Fiji Police Force, the Fijian Navy and the Fiji Corrections Service, all proudly marching in full dress uniform. Every blast of the RFMF’s artillery guns was met with cheers from the crowd, with the booming echoes setting off car alarms around the park. And I couldn’t have imagined better company for myself and Mary than the many students who shared the stands with us as we watched; the joy in their eyes was magical.
As the day went on, there was a clear sense of unity in the air – unity that should make everyone here in Liverpool smile with how far we’ve come as a nation. Our national television and radio carriers kept the party going, as families came together, faces painted, draped in the finest blue, and waving flags to fill the park as the day went on. Fijians from all walks of life laid out picnic blankets and ate together, flew kites in the sunshine, and enjoyed live music that set a mood of patriotism and progress that’s hard to put into words.
As the sun set, the crowd was treated to a fireworks show and rose to sing the national anthem in a display that would stir the heart of any Fijian. Every time I hear that song, whether it’s being sung by our school-children as they celebrate Constitution Day or by our ruggers, standing arm-in-arm before they take the field, a few lines resonate with me most strongly:
“As we stand united under noble banner blue;
And we honour and defend the cause of freedom ever;
Onward march together;
God Bless Fiji.”
There were years in our history when, sadly, I felt that refrain rang hollow. For too many Fijians – those were just words. The notion of national unity was undermined by diverging gaps in opportunity, equality and inclusivity. But now, whenever I hear those sacred lyrics, I know for a fact that we’re living up to them, and that we are putting that guiding principle into practice.
Finally, every citizen in our country can proudly call themselves a Fijian and hold confidence that their voice and vote matter equally in our democracy. Finally, every family can send their girls and boys to school without shouldering the costs of school fees, textbooks and transportation. Finally, the viciousness of racism is called out and condemned when it rears its ugly head. And finally, the vast talents and potential of our people are being unlocked for the sake of a greater, patriotic good.
For those of you who haven’t been back to Fiji in some time, the setting at Albert Park would have been nearly unrecognisable. A few years back, we completely remodelled the entire field and stadium. Across the way, the Grand Pacific Hotel has been completely restored to its former glory and now rightly shines as the gem of the Pacific. On the back of an attractive new incentive package introduced by my Government, storefronts are being given serious facelifts up and down Victoria Parade.
As you drive through the streets of what is becoming a remarkable, modern city, it’s clear that, wherever you look, our economic momentum is creating progress you can see.
But the story doesn’t end in Suva. All across the country, new development, new services and new opportunities are transforming Fiji for the better. Up and down our major thoroughfares, newly installed street lights bring warmth and security to Fijian communities. Vendors sell produce in beautiful new market stalls that showcase the freshness and quality of their goods. New tertiary, secondary and primary school facilities are being built to new standards of cyclone-resilience. New hotels, restaurants and supermarkets are being built to capitalise on the surging growth of the Fijian economy. Friends, this is all progress you can see – from the moment you land at the award-winning Nadi International Airport and throughout your entire time back in Fiji.
And soon, you’ll be making that flight in the luxury of our brand-new Airbus A350s recently acquired by our national carrier, Fiji Airways.
Ladies and Gentlemen, history has shown us moments when nations have found their true spirit and unlocked their full potential. We’ve seen remarkable progress made – in quite a short time – by countries of all sizes, from China to Ghana to Singapore. Once these countries found the right formula, their growth exploded. Friends, Fiji is living in such a moment. Our economy has expanded for ten straight years – and despite slowing global growth, our economy is resilient enough to endure these headwinds. We’re making big, long-term investments that are going to pay back returns over generations, laying a rock-solid foundation of progress for our children and their children to build upon. We’re making it far easier to do business, cutting red tape, streamlining processes, and harnessing technology through our landmark initiative digitalFIJI.
We’re uplifting more of our people from job-takers into job-makers, and we’re making it easier for members of our diaspora community to bring their ideas, ambitions and investments back to Fiji – and seize upon the boundless market opportunities and untapped white space at their feet.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow Fijians.
This time next year, we’ll be celebrating 50 years since our Independence. Let me say this: don’t just limit your celebrations to Liverpool. For the big day itself, come home. Come home and experience what Fiji has become for yourselves, and see where our nation is headed. It’s going to be a celebration for the ages – and we have some big announcements in the pipeline. I can’t reveal anything tonight, but I can give you some advice: make your bookings now.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you, and happy Fiji Day.