Art and fiction is our focus this season: let’s lift our gaze, feed our spirits and gather our strengths.
Because this year has tested us. It has opened our eyes, it has broken our hearts and it has exhausted us. Truth and lie, courage and cowardice, pride and shame. And the new lows we have seen this year, so far beneath shame that we shudder to comprehend… Systematically lying for deliberately cruel impact, and then crowing with impunity. The horrors of wars with genocidal intent. The violence of unrelenting colonisation.
This year, however, has also opened up a world of generosity, hope and love, first presented six years ago in a statement signed by over 250 Elders and leaders from over a hundred First Nations. We’ve been offered a vision for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children based on justice and self-determination.
We have glimpsed the stronger, fairer nation we will grow to become. How could it be otherwise?
I pay my deepest respects to the Elders—past and present—whose patient, powerful leadership empowers First Peoples to take a rightful place in their own country.
I honour all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have carried so much this year to walk in two worlds, their culture a gift to their country.
I honour all First Peoples who gathered from all points of the southern sky to write the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart.1
By means edifying and unedifying, we now know this nation a little better—and we know what we need to do.
As a nation, we need to learn to listen.
We need to learn like children sitting in a circle for the very first time.
We need to listen like creatures who never before have heard a story told.
We need to learn to listen like the people of a nation that’s being reconfigured right before our eyes.
Because there is so much to learn.
It’s time to feel the truth that burns.2
The people of ugliness and cruelty will be forgotten. They stand for nothing; they will fade to nothingness. Θα τους φάει το µαύρο σκοτάδι.
Populism is singular, reductive and bankrupt. Nation-building is diverse, deliberative and careful.
There is an Australia that we’re all creating together, right now. It’s in everything we make, everything we read, everything we discuss. It’s in the voices we raise, and it’s in knowing when to raise them.
We’ve got a lot of good work to do together—and that’s the only ‘we’ that counts.
Summer warms us, brings us together, opens our hearts.
The days have grown longer, and at night the sky stays light.
1. Italicised phrases quote the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart: ulurustatement.org
2. Reflecting on the legacy of Galarrwuy Yunupingu (1948–2023), Prof Marcia Langton AO said on 23 March this year: ‘he taught me, many years ago, that you know when you’re being told the truth, because the truth burns.’