Governor-General Michael Jeffery has kicked off a week of Australia Day celebrations with a dawn event at Tasmania's Cradle Mountain, urging more Australians to do voluntary work.
Major-General Jeffery said about 4.5 million people did some form of voluntary work.
“So there's a fair bit of caring, but I'd like to see perhaps double that,” he told reporters.
The governor-general said he was making both a challenge and a plea to Australians.
“If you've got some time, go out and be a school volunteer, go into the scouts and teach, go and join Rotary or what have you.
“Do something – meals on wheels – doesn't matter, so long as you're doing something for the community.”
Major-General Jeffery also said more people were taking Australia Day seriously, even though Anzac Day still loomed largest in the national mind.
“Australia Day is catching up, and rightly so.”
The Queen's representative and his wife Marlena braved windy, freezing conditions at Dove Lake in the world heritage site to join 2007 Australian of the Year category winners in reflecting on the national culture.
Senior Australian of the Year Phillip Herreen said he hoped the country remained a place where people in bad times could count on someone helping them.
“When someone's in trouble in Australia, you can bank on your neighbour or someone to help you overcome whatever you're faced with,” said Mr Herreen, a former speedway driver paralysed in a crash, who mentors disabled people.
Tanya Major, an indigenous youth advocate and Young Australian of the Year, said the opportunities created by the award had led her and her family to move away from perceiving January 26 as invasion day.
“I respect that view, I fully respect it, but for me it's opened up a different day,” Ms Major said.
Scientist and author Tim Flannery, who promised to challenge former prime minister John Howard's government over climate change policy when he was named Australian of the Year, gave credit to voters at last November's federal election.
“I suppose the people of Australia have made their choice on that and we now have a changed policy,” Professor Flannery said.
He urged people to make adjustments in their lives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These included being aware of the impacts of products they consume, such as food, water and electricity and the type of cars they drive.
“We're not going to see the rewards immediately from those changes but they need to be made in order to give us a better future a decade or two from now,” Prof Flannery told reporters.
No word on successor
The Governor-General also said he hopes his successor is a caring person who loves people and promoting Australia abroad.
But he declined to comment about weekend newspaper speculation that senior Labor figures were promoting former federal leader Kim Beazley as the Queen's next vice-regal representative.
The appointment was a matter for the government of the day and the Queen, he said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday said neither Mr Beazley nor ny other former or current politician would fill the post.
“One would hope that all governors-general appointed have particular characteristics,” Major-General Jeffery told reporters in Tasmania.
Major-General Jeffery will fly to Antarctica tomorrow on the newly launched air service from Hobart to officially open the ice runway at Wilkins aerodrome, near Casey Station.
He said he was particularly interested in talking to scientists about their research work in the Antarctic.