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An Australian History For Us All

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Nit Ish

on 12 September 2016

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Transcript of An Australian History For Us All

Noel Pearson is one of the most admired and controversial aboriginal leaders. He is a well-known, high profile Indigenous activist. He is highly educated. His intellect transpires into this speech as he asserts his credibility upon the audience through the way this speech is structured and his consistent use of political and social references. He is particular interested in the issue of Land Rights. This is essentially because of his past experiences of his country cape york that experienced such issues of land rights, these personal anecdotes have had him personally and politically involved in activism. He took interest and got involved in the highly publicized Eddie mados case.

Noel Pearson as a young boy lived with his family on one of the Cape York mission sites, Hope Vale, in Far North Queensland. He won a scholarship to St. Peter's Lutheran College in Brisbane, and later studied law and history at the University of Sydney. I would like to describe him as an Eloquent, energetic and well-educated human being. But most interestingly Pearson has the ability to succeed in politics or in a big city law firm. Instead, he has chosen to work at promoting radical solutions to the enormous problems of aboriginal people living in remote communities. He says he feels an obligation to do this. This attitude is one that should be highly acknowledged and should not be overlooked.
It was delivered in 1996 He was invited to address a distinguished academic gathering at the University of Western Sydney. His host was his former history professor, the Chancellor, Professor Derek Schreuder. His topic, was inspired by High Court decisions and political statements at the time about the Australian history. In particular, the way Australian history presented the historic relationships between the European settlers and the Aboriginal peoples they had found in the country. Throughout the whole speech he alludes to the logic behind the situation of Australian history. This is actually what makes the speech very entertainingly and engaging because everything or his argument is extremely logically and straightforward.

Media generated hysteria and PM Howard’s statement- Australian public should not have to accept this ‘black armband’ view of Australian past, they should not feel guilty for others’ actions. This Led to further tension and Pearson addresses this ‘moral and political turbulence’. The context also explains the purpose behind this speech. Noel Pearson key objective throughout the speech is to present an argument against Australians who disagree with the idea that Australians should accept responsibility of past injustices towards Aboriginal Australians. His topic was basically, inspired by High Court decisions and political statements at the time focused on the relationships between the European settlers and the Aboriginal people. It was also inspired by the ideologies of our leader at the time John Howard and his consistent use of the term Black Arm Band History. His logic and reasoning is what also ‘soften’ his audience, especially since he is an Indigenous Australian himself. The excessive amount of feeling (emotion/personal experience) and inclusive language contributes to the speech’s effectiveness. Noel Pearson delivers a rational argument in a manner that isn’t ‘threatening’ the audience, and he states that he is there to open one’s eyes and present a much more intimate perspective on the issue, rather than force the audience into different views
Speech Structure and Thematic concerns
The speech has a humble and formal beginning this however shifts into an emotional and confrontational climax. The overall structure is quite rigid and flooded with academic and political references; this effectively creates a sense of authority and credibility. This speech is quite broad and open minded which leaves the audience to decide what should be taken away from this speech.
Some key thematic ideas
1. Aboriginal history and the people’s treatment must be told, even if Australians feel guilty or believe that “it’s all in the past, we have nothing to do with it.”
2. The speech is a strong reflection of the history debate regarding how Australians should respond to their past
3. Pearson argues that reconciliation is not about “laying the blame” – but recognising past injustices and claiming some responsibility
4. He also argues that the media has created “free speech” into the freedom to speak in meaningless clichés and “sound bites”
5 key rhetorical devices
“Australia’s colonial history is what the Americans would call a hot button issue” Early on in his speech, Pearson states how delicate and controversial this topic is, especially when ordinary Australians are asked to take responsibility for the past.
“Howard’s opinions resonate...with ordinary Australians” Pearson alludes to the unfortunate fact that Prime Minister (at the time) John Howard shares similar views with most Australians, a view which is largely against taking any responsibility for the past.
“Brain Damaged Dialogue” Pearson also attacks the media, arguing that free speech has become ‘tabloid free speech’, the ‘right’ to speak in clichés and slogans, not real debate. Along with this, he incorporates alliteration, adding to its effectiveness.
"These are lines that resonate", "...resonates with the instincts and feelings of ordinary Australians“. The word 'resonate' is used with the notion that political ideas 'vibrate in harmony' or 'strike a chord' that expresses the way people feel
“For how can we as a contemporary community in 1996 share and celebrate in the achievements of the past, indeed feel responsibility for and express pride in aspects of our past, and not feel responsibility for and express shame in relation to other aspects of the past?”
Here Mr Pearson presents a fundamental strong argument, a sentence which surely puts ordinary Australians in an embarrassing position. An educated and well thought statement, it without a doubt caused the audience to question what has been happening throughout Australian society.
“If the amendments by Howard are approved, Mabo will be no more...we will indeed be guilty” As politicians attempt to “exorcise” the imaginary guilt which seems to burden ordinary Australians on a daily basis, actual guilt will take its place, the guilt of forgetting a horrific series of events, with no apology or any type of sympathy.

Quotes,Truncated Sentences Inclusive Language
3) Quotes
Pearson uses a range of quotations throughout his speech, quoting John Howard, Paul Keating, Professor Stanner, Robert Hughes, Senator Herron, Dr John Hewson, and even himself. The wide range of sources, some even from North America work to support his case.
He uses quotes from other speeches in order to support his arguments and overall purpose
eg. "I think what we need to do is open our hearts a bit. All of us." (PM, Keating)
4) Truncated Sentences
"Black Armbands. Guilt Industry. Political Correctness. Aboriginal Industry. These are lines that resonate". These truncated sentences add emphasis and therefore add impact. They can also be seen as slogans set for advertising, they are lines created to dominate and influence the minds of society
“You have taken from us not just our land...but some of our ways...” Pearson uses inclusive language to in some ways allude to the fact that Australians as a whole have contributed to the issue facing Indigenous Australians. As well as this, Pearson incorporates personal perspectives, as he himself is Aboriginal.

Textual Integrity
The issues that Mr Pearson alludes to include, inequality, lack of justice between the different groups and community within the larger society. It is noticeable that these issues are linked to the human patterns of behaviour in general, but especially regarding reconciliation and reflection upon the past.
These issues remain extremely relevant still in our society due to the lack of changes in human behaviour. However it is arguable that the tension and conflicts between Indigenous and Australian community has deteriorated as the years have gone by. A key towards this slight shift in tension was Kevin Rudd acknowledging the past and respectful apologizing to the indigenous community for the heartless action which are part of our history.
These issues back to Mr Pearson's argument of looking back at only the positive and avoiding to take responsibility for the negatives. This mindset is seen to remain unchanged since the time of this speech. These issues are still evident in our society till date and that is why this speech remains significant even though it has nearly been 2 decades since this speech was delivered.
I truly believe that Noel Pearson's speech covers many complex issues in a logically and straightforward manner. Noel sustains his perspective upon the topic of reconciliation and the need for a change in the mindset of the society. He further adds upon his argument through political and social reference. (At the time the debate over the black armband history and John Howard’s strong ideology of not taking responsibility for the past because it causes a sense of guilt and shame in the society).
However the most interesting aspects of the whole speech is the dramatic difference between Noel’s perspective of acknowledging the past so we can shed light upon the future and John Howard contrasting perspectives of ignoring the past so that new issues don’t arise in the future. I would like to finish this speech by an excellent quote from this speech, “clear distinction must be made between the importance of acknowledging the injustices of the past and the need to secure an admission of guilt for those injustices.”
Thank You!
An Australian History For Us All
By: Nitish Bhatt
Full transcript