I’ve been to Cav Road many times over the years and I’ve been in Parliament now for about 13 years. Those of you who are in grade 8 and 13 years old, you were born when I was first elected as a Member of Parliament. So I’ve been to this school on many, many, many different occasions. All of you will remember Mr Sampson, who was the principal here. I welcome very much your new principal and I’ve seen what a fantastic school community this has become over the years.
I often, around the country and around the world, recite your school motto in Latin, nil sine pulveres - nothing without work. If you know the Latin well it means nothing without dust. You know the word to pulverise, to render something from a substance into dust and as I’m told that the origin of your Latin motto comes from the ancient chariot races of Ancient Rome and that you could never win the chariot race unless you had really churned up the dust on the way around the amphitheatre or circus maximus. Nothing without dust, nothing without work.
For you guys and for all of us it’s a pretty important motto. Unless you work hard at what you do, you will never be good at it. Unless you work had at what you do you will never be the world's best. Unless you work hard at what you do you will never change the world.
But there is another principle involved in all that as well. It’s not just working hard at something, working hard to be the best student at maths, working hard to be the best student in languages, working hard to be the best and most entertaining person on the stage, the best person at the roundball game which you play here, the best person at athletics in general, the best swimmer in the school. It’s not just working hard at being that because that is taken for granted. There is another principle as well, which is, what do you believe in and why? What is going to cause you to be at your best? What is the purpose for being the best student or being the best member of your school council to support those who may be having a hard time? It’s that second question, which is why? Why are you working so hard? What purpose do you want to serve? What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to help? That is equally important for the future.
Let me give you an example. I know a whole bunch of people in Canberra who are the best agricultural scientists in the world. They can take a given box of seeds for a given block of land in the most impoverished part of the world and by doing some of their agricultural magic, they can change that agricultural yield, that is how much you get per hectare or acre, for planting seeds and multiply it by five. What does that mean? It’s the difference between starvation and malnutrition on the one hand and food sub sufficiency on the other. So, their technical skills as agriculture scientists are terrific. They are first class, they are seriously smart people. They get enormous professional satisfaction about being able to hit the scientific solution on how do I boost the yield from a given crop on a given hectare of land.
But the other part to their lives is that while they are working, in the Australian International Aid Bureau, it is because they passionately believe that they’ve got a responsibility to human beings, to help other people lift themselves out of poverty. In other words, they are fundamentally motivated about what’s not just good for me but what’s good for you. What’s good for other people? And what they do is not just some routine, they do it because it inspires them, it causes them to be bigger and more expansive than what they otherwise might be. More satisfied because it is not just being the smartest agricultural scientist in the world, it’s knowing that on a daily basis that you will help save a couple of hundred lives. When you go home at night and have a shave, when you go home at night and put on your glad rags to go out to whatever party is on that evening you know in your heart that you have done something really good for the world and for your fellow human beings.
Getting those two things right is really important. Knowing what you believe and why, in other words, what purpose are you going to serve in life and who are you going to help on the way through. Then secondly, how do you make that happen through the skills that you’ve got and how do you refine those skills to be the best possible, in the field of your interests. You know on the way through it’s never an even ride. If you’ve watched the news this week you’ll know that I haven’t exactly had an even ride. Any of you ever failed at something? I don’t mean pass or fail at a subject. I mean set out to achieve something where you’ve fallen short. I’m a bit like that. Sometimes you succeed, when you are elected as Prime Minister of a country, sometimes you succeed by serving as Foreign Minister of a country and sometimes you fail, by not winning enough votes in your Parliamentary party to become the leader. Not naming anyone in particular, other than me.
The key thing going back to where I began, you’ll say nil sine pulveres then dust yourself off and you pick yourself up and know that most people have exactly the same experience. You don’t win all the time. Part of life wisdom is knowing how to deal with the times when you don’t win, when you lose. Sometimes it’s even harder than that because you are seen by a bigger group of people to have lost. In my case recently quite a large number of people. So dusting yourself off when it doesn’t quite go right and having another go and doing better next time. That’s part of what it’s all about as well.
So, in summary, nothing without dust, meaning work your hearts out for the things you are interested in and for the things you want to do, things which you are good at, the things which light up your lives. Whatever it might be, because you will never be the best at it unless you work at it, from my life experience. Secondly, know what you believe in, beyond making a dollar. Know what you believe in, in terms of how you can help your fellow human beings at home and abroad. Thirdly, if it doesn’t all go to plan and you fall over, pick yourself up and dust yourself off and have another go, because most people have that as their life experience and the second and the third and the fourth time around, you will be surprised at what you are then capable of doing.
Thanks for your time.