AS the new school term begins, 12-year-old Nash McPherson will start high school and enter into a new phase of his life.
As part of last Sunday's Australia Day ceremony in Central Park, Nash represented Wingham Public School as the captain for 2013 and gave a heart warming speech. The audience was held in rapt attention and we felt moved to share the full version of Nash's speech here:
"Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen
My name is Nash McPherson, and I am proud to have the opportunity to speak to you on this very special day, Australia Day.
Every year we come together on this day to celebrate what a great country this is. We take the chance to enjoy all the great Aussie traditions that we love to do, like cooking a barbie, heading to the beach or having a game of backyard cricket with our friends and family. We are so lucky to live in a country where we have so much to celebrate and be thankful for, unlike many others.
I am so proud to be an Australian! When writing this speech I started to look at other countries around the world, searching for what it is that makes Australia the country I am lucky to call home. I found so many reasons, but the most important one was that here, we are all free to follow our own dreams. We are not told what to do by our governments or forced into making decisions because of extreme poverty or fear.
Australia is not only a wealthy country financially but also socially and culturally. As a 12 year old living here I am lucky to have been given the right to receive one of the best educations in the world. I have the freedom to take the career path of my choice not one chosen for me because of my age, gender, religion or monetary status. I get the chance to go on school camps, excursions and play team sports with my mates. I go to sleep every night knowing food will be there the next morning and the morning after that. Even the ability to just be able to turn on a simple tap makes me luckier than most children my age world-wide.
I am proud that I live in a country that seeks to help others less fortunate. The fact that in a crisis, it is known that Australia will be there to help is amazing. I was always told that when you are watching something sad on the news or in the paper you should make yourself feel better by looking at all the people that are helping. It is the best feeling in the world when I realise it is an Australian out there making the world a better place.
I am lucky to live in a beautiful country. One that no one can ever truly appreciate until they have seen it or forget once they have left it. I am lucky that one of my greatest heroes, Steve Irwin, has fought so hard to protect our wildlife and protect and educate the world, and us, about our animals. I am incredibly grateful that in his memory people carry on his legacy every single day. Last year I had the opportunity to visit Australia Zoo and see the work Steve has done in person, as an animal lover and fellow Australian, this was so fascinating for me.
I am lucky to live in a safe country. We are protected here by incredible men and women every single day. People who make it safe for me to grow up free from harm. To the soldiers in the Army, Navy and Air force as well as the firemen, police men and women I say thank you for making my country what it is. Without you we would never have the rights or freedom that we do.
I am lucky to live in a country of volunteers. Every year we see the effect of natural disasters, be it fire, flood, extreme heat or wind. And every single year we see the thousands of people out on the streets in the frontlines fighting and protecting us for as long as it takes. We see people give water to a thirsty koala in a bushfire, spend 20 hours a day protecting their neighbours house from destruction, offering first aid to the hurt, their homes to the homeless and the food and clothing on their backs to the hungry and afraid. Growing up in this culture means that helping another has become second nature to me and my family. Because that is what it means to be an Australian.
I am lucky to live in a culturally rich country. To learn in school about the songs and stories of the original caretakers of our land, the Aboriginal people. To understand the great sacrifices and loss they have experienced through history and the way they have triumphed in the face of adversity. I am lucky to learn about and understand immigration and know what a great thing it is that modern Australia represents many different nationalities, all of whom make us the wonderful and lucky country we are.
I am lucky to live in a successful country. We have so many world champions in different sports. Champions like soccer player Tim Cahill, our hugely successful Australian Cricket Team, our Swimming Team, and the list goes on. We also have world renowned leaders in science, industry and entertainment. Worldwide when people think about our country they think about all the great people we have representing us everywhere every single day.
It is my wish that every single day we stop for a minute and just remember how lucky we are. That we have rights where others have none, that we have a lifestyle that is envied the world over and a country so beautiful it remains in your heart forever. So, as you're enjoying Australia Day 2014, please stop for a minute and think about why we call Australia "The Lucky Country" and think of what you can do to make this great country of ours even better. I know I will!