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Keating Speech: The Redfern Address (1992)

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clip 'Australia through Aboriginal eyes'

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

This clip includes the ending of the speech. This is the section where Keating continues with his message of hope for significant change in Australian society. He outlines some of the changes that he can see already, such as a growing appreciation of the diversity and depth of cultures in Indigenous Australia, of the richness of our national life and identity with the participation of Indigenous people, their music, art and dance.

The genius and resilience of people who have survived many thousands of years, including cataclysmic changes, for example, helps us to learn to live with our environment. He references, importantly, ‘the wisdom contained in their epic story’ and how much colonial settlers have lost through living apart.

Curator’s notes

While admitting the outrages of the colonial takeover and the ongoing suffering of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Keating underlines the value of the uniquely Australian democratic system. He defines this as interested in justice and in a sense he is suggesting that ‘all of us’ take the step of reconciling with the Indigenous people just that one step further.

He outlines here that the basis of this reconciliation is already laid, that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ contribution to the life of the nation is widely appreciated. Now he asks, imagine success in the acceptance and incorporation of these people into the whole of the fabric of the nation.

His speech ends with a call to the imagination, that Australia cannot imagine the Indigenous people have no place in the nation, that Australians cannot imagine failure in this. He ends the speech with confidence, reassuring that this will happen within the decade, a reference to the United Nation’s Decade for the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Paul Keating So we are beginning to more generally appreciate the depth and the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. From their music and art and dance we are beginning to recognise how much richer our national life and identity will be for the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We are beginning to learn that the Indigenous people have known for many thousands of years how to live with our physical environment. Ever so gradually we are learning to see Australia through Aboriginal eyes, beginning to recognise the wisdom contained in their epic story. 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’s now a reality and a great reason for hope. But there’s one thing today we cannot imagine. We cannot imagine that the descendants of people whose genius and resilience maintained a culture here through fifty thousand years or more, through cataclysmic changes to the climate and the environment, and who then survived two centuries of dispossession and abuse, will be denied their place in the modern Australian nations. We can’t imagine that. We cannot imagine that we’ll fail. And with the spirit that is here today I am confident that we won’t fail. I’m confident that we will succeed in this decade. Thank you very much for listening to me.

For a transcript of the full speech, see Extras.

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