NSW Premier: Australia's identity evolving

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks at the state's Australia Day lunch.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks at the state's Australia Day lunch.

Australia's national identity is not fixed but one which is evolving and moving forward, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says.

Speaking at the Australia Day lunch in Sydney on Friday, she said the national day was a celebration of the country's milestones.

Historic moments including Federation, granting women the right to vote, and the 1967 referendum have helped form Australia's identity and define shared values, the premier said.

"Whilst our unique shared Australian values of freedom, opportunity, a fair go and mateship are deeply ingrained, our national identity has never been a static concept, it's continually evolved and moved forward," Ms Berejiklian said in the speech.

Australia Day is a time to celebrate these values, to pay tribute to those who have come before, and to consider what legacy modern Australia wants to leave, she said.

The three "threads" of Indigenous Australians, early colonial settlers and post-war migrants from around the world have forged "one of the strongest and fairest democracies on the planet," Ms Berejiklian said.

While not addressing ongoing debate about whether the date of the national holiday should be changed, the premier acknowledged the role the discussion played.

"What would Australia Day be without the passionate debate we seem to have every year leading up to January 26?," she said.

The premier said that as a young girl she was reminded by her parents, who migrated to Australia from Armenia, of how fortunate her family was to be Australian and how important it is to give back to the community.

"I believe this is the key to Australia Day - that whatever our background or our circumstances may be, that all of us have an equal right to celebrate and feel proud of the part we've played in supporting our nation and protecting everything that is so good about it," she said.

Australian Associated Press