Thursday, May 13, 2004

Paul Keating's speech in Redfern, 10 December 1992

A reference to this speech on tv a couple of days got me looking at it again. Unfortunately the vision has still not been realised. Keating was voted out of office a few years later, & the current Prime Minister of Australia still refuses to apologise for the wrongs that the early European settlers did to the indigenous population as he moves his government further & further towards the conservative right under the influence of the current U.S. government.
Australia was claimed as an English colony under the doctrine of Terra Nullius, empty land, even though it had been settled for up to 70000 years. The indigenous population were not granted Australian citizenship until 1967.
Keating's speech is probably the greatest speech by an Australian politician in the last thirty years - if there are any contenders they would come from the same source. & the last two paragraphs of the extract below have an extremely contemporary relevance to what is happening today in another country.

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?

As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded all of us.

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