I'd like to start my first column in the Yass Tribune where my predecessor, Brendan Forde, finished up in his final column.
I'd also like to acknowledge the excellent contribution that Brendan made to the Tribune and to the Yass Valley community over the past few years, and wish him the best with his next adventure.
Brendan is a young man with a passion for Labor principles, for standing up for the disadvantaged and for Australia's active engagement with the world. At this time, the world is calling and Brendan will be living and studying overseas in 2013 - but I know that Gundaroo and the Yass Valley will always be close to his heart!
Brendan's final column ended with a reminder that each and every one of us has a crucial part to play in our democracy.
I was reminded of this during Australia Day celebrations this year. I had the privilege of attending both the national announcement of Australian of the Year at Parliament House and the Australia Day breakfast in Yass.
What struck me most at both events was the outstanding quality of the individuals who were honoured - from national icon Ita Buttrose to the many heroes of the Yass community, including the courageous fire fighters who protected our community during the January fires and the staff of the Tribune who kept us all so well informed.
Australia is a great country for many reasons. But first and foremost I believe this is a great country because of the many individuals who do great things, who sacrifice to help others and who share their talents with the rest of us.
But I was also reminded that the story doesn't end there.
Without exception, the award-winning individuals acknowledged that they had not acted alone; that they were only one of many contributors; that there were others equally worthy of awards; that it was only by working together that great things were achieved.
That, to me, is the great story of Australia: great individuals achieving so much more together than they could have achieved alone. This was captured perfectly in the beautiful song at the end of the Australia Day breakfast, ‘You'll never walk alone’.
In this election year, let’s remember that politics and governing and democracy are not just the things that take place in our houses of Parliament, important as they are. We each have the ability to make our great country even stronger, fairer and freer by using our individual talents and working together in community.