Monday, January 21, 2008

Paul Keating – Redfern, Sydney. December 1992

“(This year) will be a year of great significance for Australia. It comes at a time when we have committed ourselves to succeeding in the test which so far we have always failed. Because, in truth, we cannot confidently say that we have succeeded as we would like to have succeeded if we have not managed to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the indigenous pople of Australia - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people […]

"We non-Aboriginal Australians should perhaps remind ourselves that Australia once reached out for us. Didn't Australia provide opportunity and care for the dispossessed Irish? The poor of Britain? The refugees from war and famine and persecution in the countries of Europe and Asia? Isn't it reasonable to say that if we can build a prosperous and remarkably harmonious multicultural society in Australia, surely we can find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians - the people to whom the most injustice has been done.

"And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.

"It begins, I think, with the act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice. And our failure to imagine these things being done to us. With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask - how would I feel if this were done to me?

"The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, or the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include indigenous Australians. There is everything to gain. […]

"Imagine if ours was the oldest culture in the world and we were told that it was worthless. Imagine if we had resisted this settlement, suffered and died in the defence of our land, and then were told in history books that we had given up without a fight. Imagine if non-Aboriginal Australians had served their country in peace and war and were then ignored in history books. Imagine if our feats on sporting fields had inspired admiration and patriotism and yet did nothing to diminish prejudice. Imagine if our spiritual life was denied and ridiculed. Imagine if we had suffed the injustice and then were blamed for it. It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice then we can imagine its opposite. And we can have justice.

"I say that for two reasons: I say it because I believe that the great things about Australian social democracy reflect a fundamental belief in justice. And I say it because in so many other areas we have proved our capacity over the years to go on extending the realism of participating, oppotunity and care. Just as Australian living in the relatively narrow and insular Australia of the 1960s imagined a culturally diverse, worldly and open Australia, and in a generation turned the idea into reality, so we can turn the goals of reconciliation into reality. […]

"I think we are beginning to see how much we owe the indigenous Australians and how much we have lost by living so apart.

"I said we non-indigenous Australians should try to imagine the Aboriginal view. It can't be too hard. Someone imagined this event today, and it is now a marvellous reality and a great reason for hope. There is one thing today we cannot imagine. We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through 50 000 years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and environment, and who then survived two centuries of dispossession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nation.

"We cannot imagine that.

"We cannot imagine that we will fail.

"And with the spirit that is here today i am confident that we won't. I am confident that we will succeed in this decade. Thank you."

5 comments:

the other kate said...

What a visionary, and what an articulate way to say 'sorry.' I am still reeling a bit from the musical mastery that was Keating!, longing for what could have been instead of what was. And wishing there were more rap stand-offs in politics today.

my name is kate said...

Yeah tell me about it. And how pathetic that, at least until very recently, we've only gone backward.

Anonymous said...

I was going to comment "Please write more" on your last entry, but thankfully you're back here anyway.

- Mike G

my name is kate said...

Well technically I'm really just cutting and pasting but I do plan to pull my finger out...

Dave said...

Brilliant