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We are blessed to live in the best region of the greatest nation in the world and the New Year stretches before us to write the next chapter of the magnificent story of Australia.

We should all aim to be thankful, relentlessly positive and hopeful about the year that lies ahead, but we must also be realistic. There are serious social, economic and cultural challenges facing our nation that require urgent action.

The safety and security of all residents in our community is the primary responsibility of State and Federal Governments. Every Australian has the right to feel safe in their homes, at school, in the workplace or as they travel around our nation. Whether it’s the violence of terrorism or criminal gangs, the structure of our society is being threatened and undermined in a manner which demands a coordinated national response.

The new Ministry for Home Affairs has been formed to take responsibility for immigration, border control, domestic security and law enforcement. Our federal agencies which gather intelligence and work with state police to detect and prevent terrorism and other criminal activity are at the frontline of government efforts to keep us safe.

It’s critical that we support and respect the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police as they do their work for us. We should thank them, along with our Australian Defence Force personnel, for the work they do every day.

We can all help by being vigilant and reporting suspicious activity. But perhaps our greatest challenge as citizens is to have the courage to go about our normal lives and not let those who seek to do us harm to destroy the essence of Australian life.

The freedoms we enjoy today have been hard won by previous generations in conflicts throughout the world. We have proven to be a resourceful and resilient nation and we will need that strength of character in the years ahead.

For my part, after a peaceful Christmas in the company of family and friends, I’m feeling invigorated and keen to meet the challenges that lie ahead in the political year. I spent Christmas in Gippsland visiting some of my favourite places with my family and catching up with friends.

In our increasingly busy lives, it’s important to slow down and remember the important things: loving family, good friends, a strong local community and a beautiful natural environment to be sustainably managed across Gippsland.

At this time of year, I tend to count my blessings and remember all of the reasons why I choose to live in Gippsland with my family.

That doesn’t mean everything is perfect – there are always improvements to be made, but I intend to be as positive as possible as I work with all levels of government and the community to deliver for our region in the year ahead.

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