• "I wonder: would they dismiss the memories of the Jewish people so lightly?" - Dr. Stan Grant (UNSW)Source: UNSW
"This week we know what Australia looks like. This week Australia is a boy in a hood in a cell. This week Australia is Aboriginal boys tear gassed, locked down and beaten."
Sophie Verass

30 Jul 2016 - 11:35 AM  UPDATED 30 Jul 2016 - 11:35 AM

Long serving Australian journalist and host of the NITV's The Point, Dr. Stan Grant delivered a poignant and moving speech on Aboriginal rights and recognition, as he condemned the mistreatment of Indigenous boys at the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre.

Grant was due to present the Wallace Wurth Public Lecture at the University of New South Wales after he accepted an honorary doctorate of letters at the university.

Grant addressed the shocking imagery which emerged from ABC's Four Corners program, in which young Indigenous boys were disturbingly brutalised in custody; tear gassed and tied to chairs wearing hoods. 

He likened the children to his own Aboriginal sons, who not only look similar, but could easily had been subject to the such treatment, given the rates of Indigenous incarceration and the deeply rooted racism that still clearly prevails in our country. 

Grant began his speech by telling the audience that he originally prepared something different for the event - a speech that appealed to the best of Australia, using carefully chosen words and aimed to be "rational and measured" rather than one that arouses anger.

However, after the exposé on television this week, Grant said his previous speech was "best saved for another day", and instead, he would speak from his heart.

"In this speech I would have sought those things that can unite us not those things that divide.
In this speech I would have chosen carefully my words.
In this speech I would have sought less to inflame and more to comfort.
I cannot give that speech it is best saved for another day," Grant said. 

After Grant spoke about how the vision from Don Dale resurrected memories and thoughts of the historic injustice of Colonial Australia toward Indigenous peoples, he then spoke about how recent events have secured his thoughts on recognition.

"I had thought that recognition may complete our nation – that it may fill the unfilled void.
I saw it as a chance for Australians to recognise ourselves. I am prepared to say that I put too much store in the power of this symbolism.

Now my arguments feel timid.
Recognition on these terms feels like betrayal of those who have fought for a justice more deserving: more dignified."

"If recognition is then to mean anything then we need to infuse it with the urgency of now."

He then called for a focus on a treaty, using New Zealand, the United States and Canada as political examples.

"Treaty even unattainable sings to the heart of indigenous people here in a way that recognition cannot.

If recognition is then to mean anything then we need to infuse it with the urgency of now.
It needs to speak with hope to the hooded beaten boys in dark prison cells.
It needs to rise above the transactions of our daily lives to sing in our hearts.
It needs to whisper to the conscience of our political leaders.

If it is to mean anything it needs to be imbued with the power to reorder our lives…to give real voice to the first peoples."

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said that the Sydney university can take inspiration from the powerful words of Dr Gran and others in the Indigenous community.

"At UNSW we are committed to embedding Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in our programs right across the university, so that students and staff from all backgrounds will have a stronger understanding and appreciation of, and respect for, what it means to be Aboriginal – to be part of the First Peoples of this nation,” Jacobs said.


The Point with Stan Grant returns to NITV on 8 August 2016

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