Prime minister Anthony Albanese addressed the country in an Australia Day message

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared Australia as the “greatest country on earth” before marking the January 26 public holiday by welcoming hundreds as citizens. 

The Labor leader wished residents a happy Australia Day in a video message shared to social media on Thursday morning.

“We live in the greatest country on earth, and we know it can be greater still,” he said.

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The Prime Minister said he admired the Australian values of belief in opportunity for all, respect for hard work, optimism that drives aspiration and the instinct for fairness, decency, care and respect.

He then used his address to promote his government’s Voice to Parliament.

“Australians across our great nation uphold these qualities everyday,” he said.

“And later this year, every Australian will have the historic opportunity to put these values to work by answering the gracious patient call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and voting to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our nation’s birth certificate – the Constitution.”

Mr Albanese went on to mark the public holiday with partner Jodie Haydon at the customary flag raising and citizenship ceremony in Canberra where he welcomed more than a hundred people as Australians.

He recalled the story of the first citizenship ceremony in 1949 which has since led to more than five million people becoming citizens.  

“I’m delighted … to join you for the greatest of Australia Day traditions,” Mr Albanese said at the ceremony.

“Today, all over our nation, over 19,000 people from every part of the world, drawn from every faith and every background will be pledging their loyalty to their new home, to Australia, to our democratic beliefs, our laws, our values and our people.”

The new citizens come from countries across the world including the United States, Mexico, Iran, Nigeria, Thailand and Egypt.

“You bring us the world and you bring us your drive, your passion, your talent and your aspiration,” Mr Albanese said.

Among the new Australians were disability, community and mental health workers, a mechanical estimator, administrators, scientists, accountants, and not one, but two, astronomers.  

“If anyone can help our nation reach for the stars, it’s you,” Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese spent the eve of Australia Day revealing body image advocate and director Taryn Brumfitt as the new Australian of the Year.

Meanwhile, anti-Australia Day protests have taken place in major cities across the country.

The public holiday, referred to as “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day” for First Nations communities, has been hotly debated in recent years due to it coinciding with the date Captain Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Sydney Cove in 1788.

Protesters are demanding the public holiday, which has been celebrated by states and territories since 1994, be changed or abolished altogether to be more inclusive of Indigenous Australians.

This year’s protests have also taken aim at the Federal Government’s Voice to Parliament.

Rally organisers are campaigning for “sovereignty before voice” in a bid to have a Treaty between Indigenous people and Australian governments before the referendum.

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