Stand Tall



Can I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we stand and their elders past, present and emerging.

You are going to have an awesome day.

You are going to hear from some incredible people today and hear some amazing stories.

And something one person says today might change your life forever.

Australia is the best country in the world. It really is. But it doesn’t mean everything is perfect.

We’ve got lots of challenges and the last few years have made some of them are worse.

That’s why the theme of today is ‘Dream Again’.

I know that for you in particular, for young Australians, COVID has been tougher than for many other people.

You have missed out on a lot of things you can never get back.

And I know the anxiety, the loneliness, the isolation, and the pressure that has come with the last two years, and that for a lot of young people, you are still dealing with it.

I also know that for some of you up there, school’s not much fun. That for some of you, you get bullied at school. That you feel like you don’t fit in.

Maybe you’re not comfortable in your own skin. Still trying to work out who you are and who you want to be.

That’s why today is important. That’s why Stand Tall is important. Why it’s more important than ever before.

And I want to give a quick shout out to Jeanine, to Angela, and Roslyn. The team that put this together nine years ago in a school hall with about 1,000 people and have made this what it is today.

Six thousand of you are here in this room at Darling Harbour, and 200,000 young Australians are in classrooms, in school halls, maybe watching at home online, maybe in a hospital bed.

Think about that: 200,000. That’s two Olympic stadiums full of young people and it gets bigger and bigger every year.

Jeanine, Angela and Roslyn had a dream when they started this; to create an event that creates hope, that changes lives and saves lives.

Making an event like this happen is not easy. Doing it nine years in a row is not easy. It’s hard. Doing big things is hard.

And I am sure that they will tell you that they’ve had to overcome hurdles, they’ve made mistakes. But they got there and made this dream come true.

And you can too.

Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you are not incredible, because you are.

Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t make your dreams come true, because you can.

I’m a kid from Cabramatta in Western Sydney.

I’m the first kid in my family to go to university.

I’m the first person in my family to finish school.

I’m the first person in my family to finish year 10.

My mum and dad grew up at a time when it was never expected that you would finish school.

University was just a pipe dream.

Australia has changed a lot since then.

And I got the opportunity that they never had.

That’s why this job that I got a few days ago is a dream come true for me.

It’s an opportunity for me to help you achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

Because I truly believe that if our schools are everything that they should be, if they are everything they can be, then they can become dream factories; places where your dreams can come true.

After Albo rang me and asked me to do this job, one of the first people I picked up the phone and spoke to was my old history teacher, Peter Valenti.

I asked him for advice. I said ‘who do I talk to help me do this job? Do I talk to teachers? Do I talk to principals? Do I talk to other politicians?’

He said: talk to students.

He said you can teach me a lot about what we need to do to make our education system better.

And you know, better than most, what the future might look like and what we need to get there.

That’s why I wanted to come here today in my first week in the job.

Because you are important to me.