Noel Pearson’s eulogy for Gough Whitlam

Everyone has a view on Noel Pearson. But you would have to agree that he is one good orator. His eulogy for “this old man” Gough Whitlam is being called one of the great Australian speeches.

Only those who have known discrimination truly know its evil. Only those who have never experienced prejudice can discount the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act. This old man was one of those rare people who never suffered discrimination but understood the importance of protection from its malice.

Over at The Conversation they have taken a closer look at the eulogy.

Below is both a video and a text of the eulogy.

The Eulogy

Paul Keating said the reward for public life is public progress.

For one born estranged from the nation’s citizenship, into a humble family of a marginal people striving in the teeth of poverty and discrimination – today it is assuredly no longer the case: this because of the equalities of opportunities afforded by the Whitlam program.

Raised next to the wood heap of the nation’s democracy, bequeathed no allegiance to any political party, I speak to this old man’s legacy with no partisan brief.

Rather my signal honour today, on behalf of more people than I could ever know, is to express our immense gratitude for the public service of this old man.

I once took him on a tour to my village and we spoke about the history of the mission and my youth under the government of his nemesis: Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

My home was an Aboriginal Reserve under a succession of Queensland laws commencing in 1897. These laws were notoriously discriminatory and the bureaucratic apparatus controlling the reserves maintained vigil over the smallest details concerning its charges. Superintendents held vast powers and a cold and capricious bureaucracy presided over this system for too long in the twentieth century.

In June 1975 the Whitlam government enacted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 (Cth).

The law put to purpose the power conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the 1967 referendum: finally outlawing the discrimination my father and his father lived under since my grandfather was removed to the mission as a boy, and to which I was subject the first 10 years of my life.

Powers regulating residency on reserves without a permit; the power of reserve managers to enter private premises without the consent of the householder; legal representation and appeal from court decisions; the power of reserve managers to arbitrarily direct people to work; and the terms and conditions of employment – were now required to treat Aboriginal Queenslanders on the same footing as other Australians.

We were at last free from those discriminations that humiliated and degraded our people.

The companion to this enactment, which would form the architecture of indigenous human rights akin to the Civil Rights Act 1965 in the United States, was the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

It was in Queensland, under Bjelke-Petersen, that its importance became clear. In 1976 a Wik man from Aurukun on western Cape York Peninsula, John Koowarta, sought to purchase the Archer Bend Pastoral Lease from its white owner. The Queensland Government refused the sale.

The High Court’s decision in Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen upheld the Racial Discrimination Act as a valid exercise of the external affairs power of the Commonwealth. However in an act of spite the Queensland Government converted the pastoral lease into the Archer Bend National Park.

Old man Koowarta died a broken man. The winner of a landmark High Court precedent, but the victim of an appalling discrimination.

The Racial Discrimination Act was again crucial in 1982 when a group of Murray Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, claimed title under the common law to their traditional homelands in the Torres Strait. In 1985 Bjelke-Petersen sought to kill the Murray Islanders’ case by enacting a retrospective extinguishment of any such title.

There was no political or media uproar against Bjelke-Petersen’s law. There was no public condemnation of the state’s manoeuvre. There was no redress anywhere in the democratic forums or procedures of the state or the nation.

If there were no Racial Discrimination Act, that would have been the end of it. Land rights would have been dead. There would never have been a Mabo Case in 1992. There would have been no Native Title Act under Prime Minister Keating in 1993.

Without this old man the land and human rights of our people would never have seen the light of day. The importance of Mabo to the history of Australia would have been lost without the Whitlam program.

Only those who have known discrimination truly know its evil. Only those who have never experienced prejudice can discount the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act. This old man was one of those rare people who never suffered discrimination but understood the importance of protection from its malice.

On this day we well recall the repossession of the Gurindji of Wave Hill when the prime minister said:

Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people, and I put into your hands this piece of earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever.

It was this old man’s initiative with the Woodward Royal Commission that led to Prime Minister Fraser’s enactment of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth), legislation that would see more than half of the territory returned to its traditional owners.

Of course recalling the Whitlam government’s legacy has been for the past 39 years since the dismissal, a fraught and partisan business. Assessments of those three highly charged years and their aftermath, divide between the nostalgia and fierce pride of the faithful, and the equally vociferous opinion that the Whitlam years represented the nadir of national government in Australia.

Let me venture a perspective.

The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management. In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the machinery and programs of government. The country would change forever. The modern, cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a Technicolor butterfly from its long-dormant chrysalis.

Thirty-eight years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s Jewish insurgents ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding “and what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?”

    Apart from Medibank?
    and the Trade Practices Act 1974?
    cutting tariff protections?
    and no-fault divorce and the Family Law Act 1975?
    the Australia Council?
    the Federal Court?
    the Order of Australia?
    federal legal aid?
    the Racial Discrimination Act 1975?
    needs-based schools funding?
    the recognition of China?
    the Law Reform Commission?
    the abolition of conscription?
    student financial assistance?
    FM radio and the Heritage Commission?
    non-discriminatory immigration rules?
    community health clinics?
    Aboriginal land rights?
    paid maternity leave for public servants?
    lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years?
    fair electoral boundaries and Senate representation for the Territories?

Apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?

And the prime minister with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth – in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers.

There is no need for nostalgia and yearning for what might have been. The achievements of this old man are present in the institutions we today take for granted, and played no small part in the progress of modern Australia.

There is no need to regret three years was too short. Was any more time needed? The breadth and depth of the reforms secured in that short and tumultuous period were unprecedented and will likely never again be repeated. The Devil may care attitude to management as opposed to reform is unlikely to be seen again by governments whose priorities are to retain power rather than reform.

The Whitlam program as laid out in the 1972 election platform, consisted three objectives:

    to promote equality;
    to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land; and
    to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people

This program is as fresh as it was when first conceived. It could scarcely be better articulated today. Who would not say the vitality of our democracy is a proper mission of government, and should not be renewed and invigorated? Who can say that liberating the talents and uplifting the horizons of Australians is not a worthy charter for national leadership?

It remains to mention the idea of promoting equality.

My chances in this nation were a result of the Whitlam program. My grandparents and parents could never have imagined the doors that opened to me which were closed to them. I share this consciousness with millions of my fellow Australians whose experiences speak in some way or another to the great power of distributed opportunity.

I don’t know why someone with this old man’s upper middle-class background, could carry such a burning conviction that the barriers of class and race of the Australia of his upbringing and maturation, should be torn down and replaced with the unapologetic principle of equality. I can scarcely point to any white Australian political leader of his vintage and of generations following of whom it could be said without a shadow of doubt he harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body. This was more than urbane liberalism disguising human equivocation and private failings. It was a modernity that was so before its time as to be utterly anachronistic.

For people like me who had no chance if left to the means of our families, we could not be more indebted to this old man’s foresight and moral vision for universal opportunity.

Only those born bereft truly know the power of opportunity. Only those accustomed to its consolations can deprecate a public life dedicated to its furtherance and renewal. This old man never wanted for opportunity himself but he possessed the keenest conviction in its importance.

For it behoves the good society through its government to ensure everyone has chance and opportunity. This is where the policy convictions of Prime Minister Whitlam were so germane to the uplift of many millions of Australians.

We salute this old man for his great love and dedication to his country and to the Australian people. When he breathed he truly was Australia’s greatest white elder and friend without peer of Indigenous Australians.

Australia’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) Initiative

Where is Australia’s transition to the PCEHR up to?

Here’s a presentation from Andrew Howard, head of the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record, NEHTA, given on 25th November 2011

Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia Conference


The 35th SHPA national conference, Medicines Management 2009 is now accepting registrations.

The Conference will be held from 5 – 8 November 2009 at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre.

The Conference Committee is pleased to announce that George Jelinek, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, Trudi Gallagher, Blood Management Specialist at Providence Regional Medical Centre, Everett, Washington State, USA and Mike Lovitt, Principal Blasting Specialist from Orica Mining Services will be the keynote speakers at the 35th SHPA National Conference in Perth.

Unsure why there is an explosives expert at a pharmacy conference but if there are things that go bang I am going to have a blast (Boom Boom).

Yes I will be there speaking in the indigenous stream. I have a few speaking engagements around that time. More on that later. Back to the conference blurb.

The Committee has developed an informative and stimulating program based on the theme ‘Across the Divide’ with more than 15 invited speakers and over 70 will be presented.

We encourage you to take this opportunity to submit your poster and/or paper abstracts. The Call for Abstracts is available online and all abstracts must be submitted electronically at Please note the closing date for the submission of abstracts is Tuesday, 30 June 2009.

The Program and Registration Brochure is now available online. Remember, you and your organisation will be able to get best value for money by being full members of SHPA and paying for your registrations by the close of early bird registration, 4 September 2009. Click here to register.

Please contact the Conference Office at or visit the Conference website for further information.

See you there.

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The Future of Remote Australia An Ethnobotanist view of Aboriginal Bush Medicine

This seminar was presented by Peter Latz on the 26 August 2009 titled:

“The Future of Remote Australia An Ethnobotanist view of Aboriginal Bush Medicine – past, present and future”

Listen to the podcast here

Watch the video here (external site)

Centre For Remote Health Alice Springs
Centre For Remote Health Alice Springs

The Centre for Remote Health is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. A joint venture between Flinders and Charles Darwin Universities it is based in Alice Springs with campuses in Katherine and Darwin.

As part of the celebrations they will be presenting a series of seminars and making them available online.

The Centre for Remote Health aims to contribute to the improved health outcomes of people in remote communities of the Northern Territory and Australia, through the provision of high quality tertiary education, training and research focusing on the discipline of Remote Health.

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