Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Sweeping Statements and Hollow Words

Sweeping Statements and Hollow Words

Sybella Harris

Year 11, Frensham School

We live in a world of sweeping statements.

A world where phrases like 'I have a dream...' and 'One small step for man... one giant leap for mankind...' act as prolific statements, to supposedly guide us. Yet to say that these are some of the statements that act as the key foundations on which we have built our society, is ultimately a misguided attempt at wishful thinking. The truth is, that in their own context these statements sparked action. However, in our own modern Australian context, these words are lacking in meaning.

Society may understand them, connect with them, but we are failing to act on them. We have somehow disconnected from values like these. So now what are we left with?

Hollow words - Words that are easy to speak, but hard to act on. Words that even as you speak them, spiral down deeper into an empty void of nothingness. Their physicality an empty husk that simply echoes the faintest whisper of the ideas that they were once associated with.

'I love a sunburnt country...'

Australia is full of hollow words. Slowly they have sprouted and have taken root, so deeply that their existence now goes unnoticed, feeding off the deteriorating corpses of our iconic Australia symbols.

'A land of sweeping plains...'

It is easy to say that we in we live in a society that is home to a vast array of different races, religions and cultures, and that is undoubtedly true. Australia has been described on many occasions as a vibrant and multicultural nation but is Australia a 'home' to the world's cultures or simply just multicultural.  It is time to consider the difference.

Our anthem tells  the world that we have 'boundless plains to share' yet of the 3.5 million refugees who had their status recognised or were successfully resettled in 2017, a mere 0.65% were assisted by Australia. 

'We sung of the Australian dream...We heard the howl...and it said to us again, you're not welcome.' - Stan Grant

'Australian's all let us rejoice for we are young and free...'

Watch while these words slowly deteriorate.

I, like many other young adults, have grown up living in a hub of Australian culture. I am a “Wheet-Bix Kid”, a Vegemite lover and an ACDC fan. For so long these quirks have been what I believed defined Australia. However, in recent years this perception has changed.

'Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains...'

We can no longer define ourselves as these basic qualities.

The 21st century is a time of many new and exciting things. Technology is developing rapidly, artists are breaking boundaries and people from all corners of the world are doing what they can to spark change. But in a fast-moving, modern society like ours it is easy to let the smoke cloud our sense and choke our consciences.

It is even more vital that we pause for a minute and reflect on what we are and who we are. Because somewhere along the way we have misinterpreted the definition of Australian culture and allowed it to evolve into a contagious set of poor values.

We are more diverse than what most people would initially believe. We are not tied to the ingenuity of our Australian symbols

'I love her far horizons, I love her jewl-sea'

So why don't we do something more than admire the world's sweeping statements? Why don't we reconsider the value of these messages and let them spark action?

'Her beauty and her terror. The wide brown land for me.'