Australia Day: plainspeaking.

Retired Australian Army General David Morrison was yesterday announced as the Australian of the Year. This was 3 years coming as I think he couldn’t be nominated for this award until he had retired. The one great reason (and there are many more than this) is the following speech made to the Australian Army. It was a private speech, but it quickly went viral. What plain speaking can do, eh? This speech is worth sitting through for the plain prose and stark message, and its emphasis on diversity and equality in the workplace. I loved this speech when it came out and was uncertain as to why he hadn’t been nominated earlier. Anyway, the last two years saw an Indigenous AFL footballer Adam Goodes as Australian of the Year, and Domestic Violence victim, survivor and passionate advocate Rosie Batty. This year was an ex-army leader whose straight talking speech is something all (reasonable) Australians found compelling and honest. Enjoy the clip.

 

Another speech made by the wonderful and under-appreciated indigenous journalist Stan Grant also stirred Australians, as an impromptu speech he made in October did the social media rounds just now. This is the voice of desperation from our indigenous Australians, with a call to action: “we are better than that”. Australians (again, the reasonable ones that make up the majority vote, thanks for asking) have responded wonderfully well to this speech. Grant is characteristically humble about his speech and his role in advocacy for indigenous rights: he names many great advocates before him whose speeches are braver and stronger and better than his. However, this speech comes at a time when there is a sharp division in the media between the noisy right and the desire of the Australian majority to be better than our international image would suggest.

 

So today, on Australia Day, hubby and I will go to an Art auction. The auctioneers we know well, and lots of wonderful indigenous artists are represented there. We probably won’t buy anything but it’s good to value stuff for future reference. We have lots of cheap and cheerful wall art as we have bought at least 5 pieces from them, all under $1000 each. DH took two pieces to work as his workplace won’t release artworks they buy as there is a stupid loophole in Australian Tax law that says if you buy artwork for superannuation purposes it cannot be shown or hung in public spaces. For reasons entirely unknown to me. Anyway, it means we personally buy the art for the work space. Sometimes it’s bought back by the university as part of general decoration, but I think we own all the pieces there at present.

I love indigenous art: it’s abstract and non-figurative (mainly), but has a definite visual narrative that you understand as you get to know the artist’s vision. The works we buy are usually narratives of nature, place and country. Given the ongoing arguments Australians have about Australia Day, with its hellish history for our First Peoples, it’s good to be able to, in a small, entirely selfish way, give something back to the first Australians. And to those who may think these folk are being exploited: no. I did my due diligence. The artists are represented with dignity and their copyright and artist rights intact.

So off we go, to sit in a room and be yelled at for a few hours. On Australia Day I can think of nothing more fun. Happy Australia Day to you.

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