An Australian History for Us All- Noel Pearson- 1996
What ideas/ ideals/ concepts/ issues are expressed in the text?
Unity- a history ‘for us all’.
National identity-> who we are
History- the importance of taking an intellectual approach to colonial history- revisionist- rejecting the popular/ mainstream understanding which have led to misconceptions about indigenous past
Language- power of language to shift perspective
Nationhood- building a sense of unity and ‘opening up our hearts a little bit.’
Cultural identity- analysing why we have ‘moral and political turbulence’ and moving towards understanding and acknowledgment to progress forward.
Guilt and responsibility- complex issue- guilt explored in relation to ‘black armband view of history’ as espoused by Blainey/ Howard.
Revision of Australian colonial past-> indigenous narrative- The Great Silence
What was the agenda or motivation or purpose behind the construction and delivery of this speech?
To establish the central link between Australians’ popular understanding of its colonial past and the moral and political turbulence in Australia today.
An honest, intellectual assessment of the facts of Australia’s historical treatment of its indigenous people.
To discuss how Australian society should respond to its past; to promote an open and harmonious vision of reconciliation.
To overcome the inequities of the past and to build a better future based on the foundations of justice and equality without assigning guilt.
Who was the original audience for the speech?
Gathering of academia at Western Sydney University- intellectuals who Pearson hopes to influence/ persuade to reframe Australian history
Overhearing audience- media, politicians
How are these ideas/ ideals/ concepts/ issues expressed?
Structure-> Opening phase-> understated beginning (acknowledgement of learned audience), builds platform- standard view of Australian history; the immoral basis of the Great Australian Silence; new narrative, endorsed by High Court- Mabo-, work on cultural interface, current issue- black armband view of history- defines it- intelligently, addresses notion of guilt, evidence from experience-emotion, Mabo-> future progressive/ positive.
Academic credibility established/ inclusive language/ series of points-> foundation
Rhetorical questions provide frame-> allow focus/ highlight on Pearson’s key concerns
Language- variation in tone, formal register then more informal register- personal
Division- you/ me -> to our, us, we
Appropriates Howard’s words/ pun on Keating
How does considering the speech in different contexts enhance your understanding of the speech?
From current context can identify values and ideas important to Australians in 1996 and evaluate their current relevance or change
Our post ‘Sorry’ speech provides new context from which to assess the impact of this speech-> its purpose met as new awareness of Australian indigenous history felt
Historical distance from the speech allows a degree of objectivity-> can detach from the politics of the day to appreciate the measured, considered and intellectual nature of Pearson’s rhetoric.
What events or attitudes need to be considered in order to understand this speech?
An understanding of how Australian history has been represented in the past and the implications of this; Mabo, Native Title and the indigenous experience. Media portrayals of events; political motivations. Knowledge of history and significant political/ cultural figures.
What value or meaning did the speech have in its original context?
Added significant and valid perspective to the debate about Australian history and need to form new, informed understanding. Significant because audience was the shapers of next generation’s thinking- academics, teachers, people of influence and predominantly Caucasian.
What events or changes in attitude have taken place since this speech was first delivered?
Sorry speech. Some revision of Australian history at school- focus on indigenous experience- mandatory in curriculum. Still vast social/ cultural problems for indigenous Australians- deaths in custody, alcohol problem, literacy issues.
What value or meaning does the speech have in our contemporary context?
An important reference point for Australians in indigenous affairs.
An alternative view of and challenge to Australian ‘mainstream’ history
What makes a speech endure? Does this speech have any or some of those resonant qualities?
Does the speech have textual integrity?
An Australian History for Us All- Noel Pearson-University of Western Sydney- 1996
Primary context: Chancellor’s Club Dinner, University of Western Sydney, November, 1996.
Broader social/ cultural/ political context: 1990s contentious time in Australian society- 1992- Mabo then 1993- Native Title allowed indigenous people to present claim to traditional lands. 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. Led to further tension- Pearson wants to address this ‘moral and political turbulence’.
To persuade his immediate audience and the broader Australian public of the need to revise our response to the past, and promote an open and harmonious vision of reconciliation.
A clear condemnation of Howard’s view of Australian history.
Academics and the national and international overhearing audience.
We must review our popular understanding of the colonial past because it is central to the moral and political turbulence happening within Australia. Calls for revision of History.
Positions himself amongst academic audience and assumes a humble, self-effacing stance- establishes formal register- appropriate for context. Introduces thesis- challenge the popular understanding of Australian history- though this is cleverly/ moderately introduced- not charged with high emotion- measured tone.
Builds his case- legalese; references to other historical events/ speeches-> builds evidence and credibility
Final/ closing phase:
Explicitly delineated- ‘In conclusion…’- reinforcing the formal/ case building nature of his speech
Rhetorical strategies and language techniques
Use of first, second and third person references reflects the divisive nature of the issue
evaluate the text’s language, content and construction
organise, develop and express ideas using language appropriate to audience, purpose and form
‘Module B deals with questions of textual integrity, significance and value. It is important to note that students do need to engage with the prescribed novel, film, drama or nonfiction text in its entirety to develop a deep understanding and personal view of the text and to develop their understanding of questions of textual integrity. Similarly, the study of poems or speeches in Module B requires the study of all of the prescribed poems and prescribed speeches.
The syllabus defines textual integrity as:
The unity of a text; its coherent use of form and language to produce an integrated whole in terms of meaning and value. (p 143) Evaluating a text in terms of its textual integrity requires the students to consider the features and elements of a text and the extent to which it may possess an overall unity,integrated structure and unifying concept. Students’ close analysis helps them to evaluate how these features and elements function in different ways, leading to the consideration of the text’s overall coherence and complexity. In this way, they arrive at a sense of the text’s distinctiveness and enduring, or potentially enduring, value.’