It is my pleasure to be here tonight to help you celebrate Samoa’s 50th anniversary of independence.
I had the honour to attend the official celebrations in Samoa earlier this month and what a wonderful affair it was.
You learn a lot about a people by the way they choose to celebrate and honour their achievements.
I was amazed and touched that just about heading the national procession were disability groups celebrating and honouring the contribution that people with disability make to Samoa.
There are very few countries where the disabled are celebrated in this way.
What a wonderful statement about the Samoan heart.
What a wonderful statement about Samoan enlightenment.
What a wonderful statement about the way Samoa values each of its citizens.
Samoa’s proud and rich culture was on display to Pacific leaders and other overseas dignitaries, a testament to Samoa’s high standing in the region.
Since becoming the first independent Pacific country in 1962, Samoa has been, and continues to be, a leader in the Pacific and a champion of democracy.
Australia has more than 41,000 citizens or residents of Samoan descent.
There are many prominent Australian sports stars of Samoan heritage — Socceroos star, Tim Cahill comes to mind — that have contributed to Australia’s success in the international sporting arena.
I heard recently that over 60 per cent of players in the NRL (National Rugby League) are of Polynesian descent — a significant contribution to the success of the NRL.
I am sure there will be many more successful Samoan sports stars to follow, in many sports.
I know that Prime Minister Tuilaepa is keen on promoting cricket, so I look forward to some swashbuckling Samoan batters making their mark on the T20 competition.
But, I want to thank the thousands of ordinary Samoans — like yourselves — who live in Australia and capture less attention, but contribute just as much to Australia in your everyday lives.
At school, university, through your work, your participation in church and community groups and local sporting teams, you are building a future for yourselves, your families and for future generations of Australians of Samoan heritage.
As is the Samoan way, you work hard, caring for your aiga both here in Australia and in Samoa.
You have contributed to an Australia that we can all be proud of.
We are happy you now call Australia home and you can be proud of the way you represent Australia and your Samoan heritage.
It is precisely because of you that Australia and Samoa are not just good friends, now we are family.
But, at this time of celebration, let us not forget the tragic events of September 2009 and those family and friends lost during that terrible time, in Samoa and in the Australian Samoan community.
The tsunami was a significant moment in Samoan history and in the relationship between Australia and Samoa.
Australia provided a significant amount of assistance to Samoa in the face of that tragedy and we did that very quickly.
We were glad we were able to work alongside the people of Samoa as they rebuilt their lives.
It has without question brought our two countries closer together and made our bonds stronger.
When you see all that has been done since the Tsunami, when you see the determination to rebuild communities and build a new future for Samoa, you cannot help but be inspired.
As we look to the future, the outlook is equally positive for Samoa, and for you, in the place you have chosen to call home — Australia.
In closing I thank you for your warm welcome this evening, and for the great honour you have given me in inviting me to attend your celebrations.
Soifua ma Manuia
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