2013 Gough Whitlam Oration

Noel Pearson 

Image: Sally Tsoutas/UWS

Let me say finally to Mr Tony Whitlam who is here this evening on behalf of the
Whitlam family: please pass on to the old man my warmest affection – nay, love –
and convey to him, notwithstanding that my words here tonight could not do his
public service proper justice, some sense of my belief that he is Australia's
greatest white elder and friend without peer of Indigenous Australians.

On the evening of 13 November Noel Pearson took the stage at the Riverside Theatres Parramatta to deliver the 2013 Gough Whitlam Oration. Those present were to witness an extraordinary address.

Mr Pearson's oration, The Reward of Public Life is Public Progress, opens with an exposition of life in Queensland  for Indigenous Australians under Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen in laying out the impact of the Whitlam program: 'The Whitlam legislation meant freedom'.  He proceeds to traverse a rich and complex landscape of law, culture, structural reform and personal agency culminating in an argument for Constitutional reform fulfilling the promise of Indigenous recognition and equality before the law. The case is argued with a lawyer's eye for detail and a poet's gift for language. It will engender debate and hopefully considered public conversation.

This is a memorable and eloquent oration which like the finest poetry deserves to be heard not merely read before delving more deeply into the text.


The Gough Whitlam Oration has become a significant national event hosted each year in the heart of Western Sydney.

Noel PearsonContinuing that tradition, this year's Oration will be given by highly respected indigenous leader, lawyer and land-rights activist Noel Pearson, Chair of the Cape York Group. He comes from the Guugu Yimidhirr community of Hopevale on South Eastern Cape York Peninsula and has an honours degree in history and a laws degree from the University of Sydney.

Noel has been strongly involved in campaigning for the rights of Cape York Aboriginal people and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Cape York Land Council in 1990. He has earned a national reputation for his advocacy on Native title cases including the historic WIK decision. The resulting High Court decision is recognised as one of the most important Native Title cases in Australian History.

This event was presented by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney with the support of Riverside Parramatta.
7:00pm, Wednesday 13 November.
Riverside Theatres, Corner Church and Market Streets, Parramatta NSW

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