The 2012 Ethnic Business Awards ceremony dinner was held in the Sarah Grand Ballroom at ‘Le Montage’, Sydney, and the event was dubbed ‘both a landmark and signpost’ in Australia’s business and cultural landscape.

A welcome to Country from Gumaroy Newman opened the evening before Tracey Spicer, officiating yet again, offering a warm welcome to the Prime Minister, The Honourable Julia Gillard; and the Leader of the Opposition, The Honourable Tony Abbot.

Their Excellencies, Ambassadors of Croatia, Lebanon and the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan were also in attendance, along with Representatives of the Diplomatic Missions from China, Vietnam, Croatia, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and many other dignitaries from both Federal and State governments and luminaries from all fields of business, media, and the community at large.

Interest in the Awards was as vital and widespread as ever. The hundreds of nominees had comprised a veritable rainbow of cultures, ethnicities, religions, countries of origin, and personal circumstance. They were also a mixture – of refugees, business migrants, those who came to Australia to join their families, and also sponsored migrants.

Two new sponsors were added to the growing list of support: China South Airlines, and the Diversity Council of Australia – both perfect fits into the EBA family. The Diversity Council – Australia’s only independent, not-for-profit workplace diversity advisor to business in Australia – had been established to encourage the very thing the Awards promotes: Diversity. Its support of the Ethnic Business Awards was a new and exciting addition as they headed into their twenty-fifth year. True diversity was at work, promoting diversity!

In his welcoming speech, Joseph Assaf greeted both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot with the observation that: “…tolerance and freedom … happen to be some of the fundamentals of Democracy. They are the things that a true democracy aims for. At its best, it coordinates its differences, harnesses them for the greatest good, and enjoys and celebrates the outcomes.  Without that well-conducted ‘symphony of differences’, we would have not harmony, but discord or – just as bad – monotony, and all the things that imply: stasis, lack of inspiration, lack of growth, lack of excitement.”

“It’s very encouraging, then, for me to see, tonight, two of our leading … sharing a table at this event. Sharing in not just the celebration but in food, conversation, the acknowledgement and acceptance of the common ground of offered hospitality, and the need to set aside political differences in support of a shared ideal.”

“Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Julia, Tony,” he said,” welcome to my table. Welcome to my house – my house of diversity.”

In reply, the Prime Minister drew applause as she said:

“It’s a pleasure to be at your table… I am going to look forward to welcoming you in Canberra next year, and,” she quipped, “in order to make that happen, I’ve needed, over the table, to negotiate the election date with Joseph. But, I just want to remind – it’s a secret, Joseph, so don’t tell Tony at any stage of the night!”

On a more serious note, she went on to observe:

“Immigration has worked. And it’s worked because we made it work. We accepted that our nation would never be defined by race or ethnicity, like so many other countries. Instead, we would define ourselves by our values and our way of life: our love of freedom and democracy; our egalitarian cast of mind and our relaxed outdoor lifestyle; our willingness to work hard and to play fair. And we said that anyone who embraced these things could be called ‘an Australian’.”

“Your admission ticket was your commitment. The commitment to choose this place from all the world. To serve it and fight for it, and always call it home.”

She went on to assert:

“This is a century when innovators will flourish. A century when Australia will be served well by its creative, entrepreneurial culture and its vibrant multicultural society. Our ethnic businesses are custodians of the many capabilities we need to succeed.”

“United in our diversity and unafraid of the future, let’s seize the opportunities of this Asian Century together.”

All of the finalists had, clearly, already taken that exhortation to heart and seized their own opportunities with both hands.