By Kathleen Carmody
Hayley Eves, a 15-year-old Korean-born student at Monte Sant Angelo, stole the show and won Australia’s heart when she spoke at the recent Centenary of Federation celebrations in Melbourne.
She was the last person to speak, her identity kept a secret until the moment she walked on stage.
In a clear, measured voice Hayley spoke the words which have now been replayed and reprinted many times over
in the media:
“I am young. I am a woman, and I am Asian Australian. That I am standing here in front of you demonstrates clearly that we have changed.
“A young woman of Asian origin would not have
been permitted to stand here 100 years ago.”
And, with those simple yet powerful words, Hayley became the star of the Centenary of Federation celebrations.
So how did this young Catholic girl from
Mosman come to be standing in front of a crowd of 70,000 people at one of the most important celebrations in the history of Australia?
Hayley says she saw a poster up at school calling for people to become
“youth envoys” to celebrate the Centenary of Federation.
Always enthusiastic to get involved in as many activities as possible, she submitted an essay and was chosen to travel to Melbourne for the
celebrations as an envoy.
She was excited and proud, but as yet she had no inkling of her imminent moment in the spotlight.
When she was first asked to give the speech, she says, she thought it would
be just in front of the other envoys.
“I got called up by the organiser of the youth envoys ... and she goes: ‘Oh, Hayley, would you like to do a speech for the Centenary of Federation when you go to
“And I thought it was just going to be in front of the youth envoys, so I said: ‘Sure, that’d be great’. Then she goes: ‘It’s going to be a little bit of work, but I’m sure you’ll have lots of
fun, and there’s going to be a speechwriter for you’; and I’m thinking: ‘OK, that sounds good’.
“And then when I got called up again closer to the time before we went to Melbourne … that’s when they told me
I was going to be speaking in front of all those people. And that it was going to be huge.”
Hayley admits she was nervous before making her speech. Hardly surprising, given the proliferation of people and
media in attendance. But she says her fears abated when she began speaking.
“It was more before I went on (that I was nervous) because I was standing behind the curtain, and I could see all the presenters on
stage; and then when Gus (Sir Gus Nossall) presented me, I was so nervous! I was shaking but really excited. And then when I got out, I saw everyone and it was good.”
Hayley spoke as the representative of
young Australia; the voice of the future.
“I spoke about reconciliation with indigenous Australians, and also the environment,” she says.
“I know a lot of my friends care about the environment and
would like to see it improved for the future.”
She also spoke about “a republic for Australia, about women’s rights and multiculturalism, saying that Australia is multicultural, and that everyone should be
proud to live in Australia because the people who make up Australia make Australia unique. I was basically just saying how far Australia’s come since 1901, how much we’ve achieved and how much we should acknowledge
what we’ve done.”
Hayley says she has no political aspirations (at the moment she rather fancies a career in hospitality), but she told the crowd she hoped that when the nation gathered again in 100 years’
time that people would not think it unusual to be addressed by a female head of state, a female prime minister and a female leader of the opposition.
Hayley says that she feels unequivocally Australian – and
a proud one at that – yet she still feels a connection with the land of her birth. She and her sister were both born in South Korea. Hayley speaks a little of the Korean language and she’s been back for a visit.
Multiculturalism, therefore, is in her make-up.
“My family is very multicultural in its own way,” Hayley says, “in that my sister and myself are both from South Korea – she’s in Year 8 at Monte – and my
brother was born in Australia, so he’s Anglo-Saxon ... and so was my mother.
“But my dad was born in England. So it’s a bit of a mix!”
An added bonus for this gregarious, enthusiastic young woman was
the opportunity at the Centenary of Federation celebrations to meet some of Australia’s best known and most influential people.
“I got to speak to Bob Hawke and Kim Beazley, Gough Whitlam and Sir Gus Nossal
– he’s so nice, he’s such a champ.
“I also got to speak to Simone Young (musical director of Opera Australia), she’s an ex-student of Monte Sant Angelo, she’s a conductor of music. She was lovely,” Hayley
“I got to speak to Mark Taylor, and I got to speak to Betty Cuthbert. I got to speak to a lot of people.”
But now it’s Hayley’s turn to bask in the spotlight.
courted by the media since she delivered her speech; she’s been profiled in newspapers and magazines and has spoken on radio.
And the attention doesn’t look set to stop any time soon.
She says the
phone has been running hot with offers. And contrary to popular perception of the way the media operates, Hayley says she’s received nothing but kind treatment.
“It’s been really good because all the papers
have been really nice; no one’s said anything disturbing or anything cruel. They’ve been really good.”
In fact, according to Hayley, the whole experience has been sheer fun. Bubbling over with excitement as
she speaks, she can’t stress enough just how much she’s enjoyed the ride.
“It was so much fun. It was a great honour for me to speak for the youth of Australia, so I was really happy,” she says.
as well as delivering fun and fame, Hayley says her experience has taught her a lot about the significance of Federation. She learned a lot not only about the history of Federation but about what it means to be
“Being part of the Centenary of Federation did open my eyes to every aspect of Australian life and to acknowledge it,” she says. “For all Australians to come together and celebrate it is great.
“Everyone should be involved. And I hope in 100 years time we’ll celebrate it again – 200 years of federation – that would be good.”