By John Wells
A rather extraordinary event happened on Wednesday at the Parramatta River Side Theatre. One great Australian came to honour another great Australia; both men, one much older than the other.
Unfortunately too few people witnessed it.
The event was the Whitlam Oration. It was promoted by the Whitlam Institute in Honour of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
The speaker was Noel Pearson, one of Australia’s most genuine and remarkable indigenous leaders.
Here’s a flavour, but you must read the whole thing – it is simply compelling:
“In his 97th year, in this third oration in honour of Australia’s 21st prime minister, I use the appellation ‘old man’ with all the reverence and love of its meaning in the ancient culture of my people. An acute consciousness of the honour bestowed by the governors of the Whitlam Institute to one so richly undeserving, is leavened by unalloyed gratitude for the chance to salute this old man in the twilight of his extraordinary life. The alacrity with which this invitation is seized, belies somewhat the humility which an outsider should properly feel when afforded such a rare and august privilege.
“I say ‘outsider’ in the sense of the Australian Labor Party, but if I was born estranged from the nation’s citizenship, into a humble family of a marginal people striving in the teeth of poverty and discrimination – it is assuredly no longer the case. This because of the equalities of opportunities afforded by the Whitlam program which successive governments built upon, and even where predilections were otherwise, their institutionalisation made their reversal difficult. The truth is, I, and numbers of my generation are today, bourgeois, albeit with varying propensities to decadence.”
Watch the speech here.
Download the speech here.