I acknowledge the presence of a number of diplomats here today, particularly the Ambassador from Sweden, the Ambassador from Hungary, the Deputy Head of Mission from Israel, and Dr Frank Vajda, I acknowledge his presence here. Ladies and gentlemen.
Today we recognise and honour one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century. This year marks the 71st anniversary of the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg, a young Swedish diplomat, humanitarian, who led rescue operations to save nearly 100,000 Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary.
Around the world there are memorials, tributes to Raoul Wallenberg, including in Israel at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where Wallenberg is honoured as “righteous among nations”.
Here in Australia, there are memorials and spaces to honour the courage of Raoul Wallenberg, in Canberra, at Parliament House and at the Australian National University.
In 2013 Australia recognized Raoul Wallenberg by awarding him honorary Australian citizenship, the first and only such recognition.
I’m absolutely delighted to meet Professor Vajda and his presence here today is an extraordinary reminder of the extraordinary efforts of one man against extraordinary evil, for Professor Vajda and his mother, were able to re-settle in Australia because of the work of Wallenberg.
In fact, he was one of the lucky ones, one of the fortunate ones who was saved by Wallenberg’s heroism. As a nine year old boy in 1944, he faced death by firing squad in Budapest. Through the negotiations of Raoul Wallenberg he was able to be released, and then in 1951 Frank and his mother came to Australia. What a brilliant living legacy! Now a Professor of Neurology at Melbourne University, a distinguished medical practitioner, author, academic.
Australia acknowledges that any tribute to Raoul Wallenberg is not just about one man and this exhibition likewise is more than just a tribute to Wallenberg because it’s a reminder to us of the many who have sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom.
Australia is a beacon of democracy, committed to upholding freedom, rule of law, human rights. In fact, we have a long history of supporting freedom. We were one of the original drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we chaired the first United Nations Security Council meeting in 1948, and we are seeking a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018.
Not only are we committed to freedom, democracy, rule of law and human rights, we’re also one of the most successful multicultural nations on earth, welcoming people from all over the globe. Frank’s presence here reminds us that since 1945 Australia has been enriched by the presence of 7.5 million migrants, 800,000 of whom have come under our humanitarian program.
I am deeply honoured to have the opportunity to formally launch this exhibition here in the RG Casey Building, the home of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The legacy of Raoul Wallenberg will endure while ever we value freedom.
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