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Keating Speech: The Redfern Address (1992)

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clip 'We can have justice'

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Clip description

In this section of his speech, Keating documents the remarkable contributions of the Indigenous people of Australia in history, sport, the arts, the armed services, in all areas of Australian life.

Curator’s notes

In this section of his speech Keating shifts from the placing of blame on the settler colonial project to the recognition of Indigenous achievement against the odds, in every facet of social life in Australia and that 'we should never forget they have helped us build this nation’. He then shows a way out, the resilience and capability of Australian social democracy to bring about significant change and its fundamental belief in justice.

The first section is extremely powerful as he calls on the audience to imagine the suffering and adversity of Indigenous people, to imagine that it was somehow placed on them, that they had to endure the extent of it, as he details it, how would they feel?

He introduces the notion of justice and he calls on the citizenry to imagine if they were denigrated in the many ways that the Indigenous people have been (he comprehensively outlines these), then ‘imagine if we had suffered the injustice and then were blamed for it’.

He then brings a ray of hope, the fundamental belief in justice in the Australian democratic system and the capacity of the people to turn the goals of reconciliation into reality.

Paul Keating Where Aboriginal Australians have been included in the life of Australia they have made remarkable contributions. Economic contributions, particularly in the pastoral and agricultural industry. They are there in the frontier and exploration history of Australia. They were there in the wars. In sport to an extraordinary degree. In literature and art and in music. In all these things they have shaped our knowledge of this continent and of ourselves. They’ve shaped our identity. They are there in the Australian legend. And we should never forget – they have helped us build this nation.

And if we have a sense of justice, as well as common sense, we will forge a new partnership. As I said, it might help if we non-Aboriginal Australians imagined ourselves dispossessed of land we had lived on for fifty thousand years – and then imagined ourselves told that it had never been ours. 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’d 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 the 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 suffered the injustice and then were blamed for it. It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice we can imagine the opposite. And we can have justice.

I say we can have justice 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 realms of participation, opportunity and care. Just as Australians living in the relatively narrow and insular Australia of the 1960s imagined a culturally diverse, worldly and open Australia, and in a generation turned this into reality, so we can turn the goals of reconciliation into a reality.

For a transcript of the full speech, see Extras.

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