“It takes courage to tell the truth, no matter how unpopular those truths may be.”

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I’ve been in Australia for a few months now. The natural beauty of the country is breathtaking and I’m loving the process of discovering new places and different ideas. One of the things I’m interested in is Australia’s relationship with its past, the juxtaposition between this amazingly open and friendly culture and the dark history that seems so hard to take in, process, move on from.

The different perspectives on Australia’s past have been called the ‘history wars’ and the national debate about what impact British colonisation had on Australia’s Aboriginal population goes on. It’s a difficult area for me, as a newcomer, to write about, as my knowledge and understanding of the issues are far from deep. Having said that, from my outsider’s point of view, it feels as though much progress has been made since I last lived here (in the mid-‘90s).

(Former) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology in 2008 to all Aborigines and the Stolen Generations for their “profound grief, suffering and loss” was clearly a landmark moment. Perhaps his desire to “leave behind the polarisation that began to infect every discussion of our nation’s past” hasn’t yet been achieved but it’s a journey that goes on.

Current Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to finalise by September a draft for amending the constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as the first Australians. I’m no Tony Abbott fan but I agree with him when he says that this reform is worth taking the time to get absolutely right. “We have to be comfortable with it as a nation: black and white Australians, old and new Australians, Australians from everywhere have to be comfortable with it and they’ve got to appreciate that this will be, and should be, a unifying moment.”

It was within the context of these ongoing and hopefully positive debates that I read AFL star Adam Goodes’ challenging and inspiring piece in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. A call for courage, honesty and empathy, Goodes’ bold, brave and often moving words are shot through with passion and integrity. Reflecting on the John Pilger documentary Utopia and the Australian media’s response to it, he makes clear that there’ll be no reconciliation without justice and no justice without truth. No progress without facing up to the past and then shaping the future together.

Goodes’ piece is full of sadness and anger, made all the more powerful by the fact that it’s not written by a voice from the fringes of society but by a man who’s a Sydney Swans legend and Australian of the Year. (I first came across him in the form of a little plastic figurine on the keyring of legendary headhunter Esther Clerehan, a self-confessed Sydney Swans nut).  “It takes courage to tell the truth, no matter how unpopular those truths may be,” he says, referring to the film; the line could just as well apply to him.

As I said, I’m fresh off the boat and woefully under-informed about the historical and political details. But I instinctively believe that Goodes is right, that positivity and forward momentum will come from truth. Please have a read of his piece and let me know what you think. And go to see Utopia. I’ll be back with more thoughts once I’ve seen the film myself.

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About antmelder
Creative Partner at DDB Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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