If you had watched the recent Adam Goodes documentary, “The Final Quarter”, you would have seen a figure emerge from amongst the chaos of a divided nation to provide reasonable guidance for all Australians. Stan Grant is that figure.
As a true enlightenment thinker, it seems that regardless of the volatility or complexity of a situation, Grant is able to eliminate his own subjective bias and evaluate ideas with fresh eyes. He can understand the motivations of others and does not conform to ideological groupthink on any side of politics.
Here at Trinity, we were incredibly fortunate to have had Grant as our guest for Books at Breakfast last term. The author, journalist, media personality, television presenter, skilled orator and Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man, generously came at the beginning of Reconciliation Week to tell his own story and provide valuable insights on Indigenous identity and the reconciliation movement, amongst other topics which he discusses in his recent book ‘Australia Day’.
Speaking unaided for one hour, he shared his journey to discovering personal identity- something he describes as “not a singular thing”. What stuck out to me was Grant’s decision to not let history define him and his refusal to play the victim or make excuses, having come from severe hardship in regional NSW to be one of the most respected political commentators in Australia. On the topic of Australia Day, Grant provides a sophisticated analysis of culture and history, believing that asking whether the date should be changed or abolished altogether is the wrong question. Rather, that we must ask who we are as a nation, what it is to be Australian and how history is to impact us today.
Grant, who I would vaguely describe as a liberal (although he would likely object to such binary, simplistic categorisation), advocates for reconciliation and progressive values but is critical of the politics of identity, populism and the mob mentality which characterise the fringes of both sides of politics. He approaches issues from a non-partisan perspective and is not inclined to let his personal experience get in the way of rational judgement.
After his talk, I waited in line to have a discussion with him. I was preparing my own speech to give in front of the school and wanted to get some ideas on some issues that I was somewhat stuck on. I had been researching reconciliation for some time as part of the Social Action Group, but as I delved deeper into the topic, I was left with more questions than answers: Will reconciliation work? What is the end goal? Is affirmative action merely reducing individuals to their group identity and spurring on racism? How much of ‘the gap’ is due to geographic and cultural factors? What is the relationship between race and culture? Are all cultures equally viable?
He was very open to my questions and shed insight into his view on some of these issues. Regarding the relationship between race and culture- an unpleasant question at best- he noted that culture is not static and that culture is affected by a wide array of uncontrollable factors. He also conveyed how ‘the gap’ can be attributed somewhat to geographic factors, but that intergenerational poverty as a result of historical oppression is also a major factor. I also tend to align with Grant’s view that affirmative action should focus less on race and more on socio-economic disadvantage and geographic limitations.
Having listened to this address, and Grants new book “Australia Day”, I have been left with a greater understanding of Australia’s national story, what it is to be Australian and how we can contribute to a better nation in the future. Regardless of your political inclination, I would strongly recommend his work. On behalf of all those in attendance, I wish to thank the library staff for organising a wonderful ‘books at breakfast’ and Stan Grant for being a voice for reason and unity for all Australians.
You can find more out about Stan Grant at http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/grant-stan-17827
-Elliot Earnshaw, 12 School House Captain