Filmmaker Rachel Perkins hopes that her upcoming Boyer Lectures can facilitate a positive discussion on the recognition of Indigenous culture, an issue which she says has been plagued with missed chances over the past few decades.
"Being present at all these opportunities that were lost; whether that be the bicentennial, which was the celebration of 200 years of European occupation, or in 2000 with the statement of reconciliation rejected, or the anniversary of the 1967 referendum in 2017, I've just been part of all these pushes, to get people to reckon with the history and past of Indigenous people."
“I think Australians are pretty reasonable people”: Rachel Perkins will give the 2019 Boyer Lectures.
She said that the eve of the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first landing at Botany Bay was a perfect time to try and re-open a dialogue with wider Australia, particularly an audience that may not be familiar with the subject matter.
"I'd like to speak to an audience that isn't necessarily engaged in this topic … we can't just speak to our friends and family about this.
"I think Australians are pretty reasonable people, and they have a sense of justice … I hope that they feel like they want to resolve this issue and that they feel some sort of connection to it and that's its not just Indigenous people who feel that way."
First held 61 years ago, the Boyer Lectures are a series given each year by a prominent Australian about major social, cultural, scientific or political issues.
Titled 'The End of Silence', Ms Perkins’ lectures will be broadcast on ABC Radio National from Saturday 16 November at 1pm, and will make the case for the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s call for a First Nations Voice in parliament.
The daughter of Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins, Rachel said her status outside the sphere of academia is why the chance to give this year's lectures appealed to her.
"It's one of the reasons I'm doing it. I think ordinary Australians need to talk to other ordinary Australians about this. Giving lectures isn't really my thing, I'm a filmmaker," she said.
Ms Perkins hopes she can explain certain aspects of cultural representation that may be misunderstood by some people.
"There's a couple of big ones. One is that there's going to be a third chamber of government. That's just not true," she said. "The other is that it will divide our country by race. People have accused us of trying to create some kind of apartheid system … it's the polar opposite of that. What we're talking about is bringing the country together by recognising the history of the Indigenous people."
The title of her lectures is in reference to the 1968 Boyer Lectures, in which anthropologist Bill Stanner coined the term 'The Great Australian Silence' because he proposed that Australian history had been wiped clean of its Indigenous past.
"If you travel around the world and talk about Australia, its relationship with its Indigenous people comes up as a point of concern as a thing that remains unresolved," Ms Perkins said.
"The end of silence might be a voice to parliament, it could be a part of truth-telling in that the nation comes to terms with the roots of its origins. It's across all three themes of the Uluru statement and gives us a pathway."
“Rachel Perkins’ remarkable contribution to Australian storytelling gives her unique insights into the complex and controversial debate over the Uluru Statement from the Heart," ABC Chair Ita Buttrose said.
"Hearing one of our most powerful Indigenous voices make the case for constitutional recognition exemplifies the role of the Boyer Lectures in stimulating discussion and debate about major issues in Australia.”
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