Fortescue Metals Group ("Fortescue") Chairman Andrew Forrest has addressed the Commonwealth Day Observance at Westminster Abbey in London focussing on connecting cultures through employment and careers and ending human trafficking and slavery.
The annual multi-faith service was held in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II who delivered her annual Commonwealth Day message to Heads of Government, High Commissioners, 200 other VIPs and more than 1,000 schoolchildren inside the Abbey. This year's Commonwealth Day Observance took on special significance as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
Mr Forrest was the only Australian invited to provide a formal address at the Commonwealth Day Observance in recognition of his efforts to end indigenous disadvantage through education, training, jobs and careers – a discussion topic Mr Forrest chaired at the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) Commonwealth Business Council Forum in October. He also used the opportunity to make an unprecedented call for action to all Commonwealth nations to do more to end slavery.
"Human slavery and trafficking – to the shock of most – is alive and well in practically every nation on earth. Only when we can truly connect our cultures and participate in a global initiative to address this blight on the very nature of humanity will we adequately address it," Mr Forrest said.
In October, the Commonwealth Business Council's post-meeting communiqué nominated the Australian Employment Covenant (AEC) as a model to link business-designed training with career opportunities for disadvantaged citizens across the Commonwealth.
Mr Forrest has now been appointed Commonwealth ambassador for employment and engagement with disadvantaged communities to head a leadership group of senior business leaders and Government officials to promote global best practices to create opportunities for employment using public private partnerships.
Mr Forrest said the CHOGM meeting in Perth, hosted by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and WA Premier Colin Barnett, continued to have a positive impact on the Commonwealth and its citizens long after the meeting concluded, and he looked forward to utilising the knowledge and experiences in Australia to assist other Commonwealth countries.
"Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians now recognise that employment is the only way to the equality of opportunity every just society craves. Globally, we know that opportunity for proper employment is the only way we can do slave traders out of work," he said at the Commonwealth Day celebration.
"The overwhelming power of standing on your own two feet replaces despondency with pride; despair with dynamism; low expectations with the confident hope of an independent future. Health and morale improve and the individual's thirst for further education accompanies a new hunger for greater success. Disparity becomes a memory.
"The natural fire of human endeavour and determination burns brightly in the hearts of all people."