SPEECH: Australian Consul-General Michaela Browning, to the Australia Day Reception on 24 January 2019
Thank you for coming to our celebration of Australia day.
We are delighted to have Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary as our Guest of Honour tonight.
Among our distinguished audience can I acknowledge our friends the Secretary’s for Security; Education; Civil Service; Labour and Welfare; members of the Executive and Legislative Councils; the Chairs of the Trade Development and Tourism Boards, Deputy Commissioner and officials from both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Liaison Office.
A special thanks to our sponsors who you will know do so much for our relationship every day, but especially today.
On Australia day we reflect on what it means to be Australian – we have a lot to be proud of and grateful for.
Tonight we think about how important Hong Kong, China and our Chinese heritage is to our history and success.
On Hong Kong of course, to those here, it’s no surprise it’s our largest commercial base in Asia and second largest concentration of Australians living overseas.
This relationship will only get better when we ratify the Free Trade Agreement.
The relationship is enabled by the special status Hong Kong holds within China under “One Country, Two Systems”.
But the first ingredient for Australians love of Hong Kong was made 200 years ago and built on deep personal and family connections.
The first Chinese and also the first Cantonese speaking migrant Mak Sai Ying boarded a boat here in Hong Kong, before it even became a British Colony, and arrived in Australia two centuries ago.
In a great Aussie tradition, Mak opened a pub in Parramatta.
He married an Irish migrant and his family prospered.
Of course Mak was just the first of many.
Many came during the Gold Rush and went on to do extraordinary things.
These migrants helped to found banks and retail businesses, were pioneers in trade, shipping, the union movement, became war heroes, nurses, teachers, and also cooks introducing exciting new foods that branched out from the world’s best lamb chops.
Our Chinese heritage is proudly celebrated in the Victorian gold rush town of Bendigo, where the historic connections to Hong Kong prompted a special response to the opening of a new airline route.
Many of you know that the Bendigo Chinese Association is making a new dragon here in Hong Kong at the moment – determined to retain its title for having the world’s longest Chinese ceremonial dragon.
The video we saw mentions Virgin airlines, but of course Qantas was the first to commence passenger flights from Australia to Hong Kong 70 years ago, and Cathay Pacific – Hong Kong’s carrier – was actually founded by an Australian pilot: Sydney de Kantzow.
There are so many remarkable stories over these 200 years.
Not only Chinese migrants to Australia but also the tens of thousands of Australians that have been pioneering like de Kantzow and built connections with Hong Kong in all fields of human endeavour.
Let me mention a couple.
Henry Ching – a Queenslander and legendary editor of the SCMP pre and post-World War II, whose two sons became a Commerce Secretary and a CFA judge respectively.
We have had many great Australians serve in Hong Kong’s fine judiciary since then of course, including Sir Anthony Mason.
Joan Leong Patron of the Australian Association Hong Kong who is with us tonight. Her family had migrated to Australia during the gold rush.
Her daughter Jackie is the first female to chair a bar association in a common law jurisdiction.
The Australian Association Hong Kong celebrates 65 years on Australia Day this Saturday.
We are proud of those Australians and Australian linked organisations who built the first department stores here, helped to develop many of the professions, founded the Australian school, created and grew business.
Many Australians here were quick embrace China’s opening up, including members of the Australia Chinese Association who built some of the first factories in Shenzhen.
We are also proud of Australians leading organisations like the Crossroads foundation, the Hub, the Women’s Foundation, Tai Kwun, M+ and Maritime Museums to name just a few.
With more than one million Australians now of Chinese descent, and more than 100,000 Australians in Hong Kong and almost as many Hong Kongers in Australia we have a lot of personal stories to celebrate this Australia Day.
And with that, I would therefore like to propose a toast:
To the people of the People’s Republic of China and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
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