The power and promise of change

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  • Published 20220428
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-71-9
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

In the second of a series of intergenerational exchanges and reflections on the links to and legacies of the Whitlam era in the run up to the fiftieth anniversary of the 1972 election – a collaboration between Griffith Review and the Whitlam Institute – a federal senator and land rights activist talks with a graduate First Nations constitutional lawyer about Indigenous affairs across the past fifty years and into the future.

PATRICK DODSON: It’s a bit hard to compare the sort of cataclysmic change that came about when Gough Whitlam took office and – in a very short space of time – implemented a range of reviews or changes to the fabric of Australian society, certainly to the status of Aboriginal people. We’d been lingering on the vine very much under the control of officers and assimilationist dictators and repressive kinds of regimes. Gough’s land rights promises, his concern about sacred site protection, his concern about equity – that there be a real opportunity for Aboriginal people to have a say and to have a Voice to Parliament, to direct and guide the Australian nation as to where we wanted to go under a policy of self-determination, to bring into that an international perspective based on the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – that lifted Australia out of this sort of backwater. Combined with his own charisma, his own dedication, his own forthrightness – well, having grown up with the assimilationists’ attitude, the appearance of Gough [meant that it] took a while to understand what the heck was happening! It was a whirlwind – but a very, very pleasing whirlwind. The legacy is still here and it’s taken a while to grasp the initiatives that he undertook and delivered upon.

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About the author

Bridget Cama

Bridget Cama is a Wiradjuri Pasifika Fijian woman and Co-Chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue. She has worked closely with the Uluru Statement from...

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