Write a speech in which you demonstrate your understanding of ‘Australian Voice’. The ‘Australian Voice’ is a distinct concept which incorporates the ideas, values and perspectives that are unique to Australian individuals. A ‘voice’ is a representation of one’s experiences which shape their identity, culture, history and beliefs. Carmel Bird’s non-fiction text Stolen Generation: Their Stories effectively portrays the members of the Stolen Generation whose experiences are illustrated through personal narratives as well as objective reports. The stories about racial discrimination, forced separation, indignity and humiliation, and the loss of cultural identity are emotionally revealed by the Aboriginal people whose ‘voices’ are upheld by the composer of the text. The text upholds a range of Australian values which include compassion, understanding, forgiveness, egalitarianism, and ultimately, the desire for reconciliation, which is the main message voiced by the text. In the ‘Introduction’ the editor Carmel Bird accentuates her own sympathetic attitude towards the inhumane treatment of the members of the Stolen Generation.
Bird’s value of compassion and egalitarianism challenges and compels us to form our own voice concerning the Aborigines and agree with view that the Australian government must apologies and take action for reconciliation. Carmel Bird uses highly emotive languages, which powerfully demonstrate her emotive appeal to the reader’s sense of sympathy and compels the audience to emotionally react and rectify the wrongs committed against the stolen children. She ends with the short imperative, “Listen to their voices”, which illustrates that it is a moral duty of our generation to understand the pains and continuing cries of agony of the Indigenous people. Her emphatic tone and sympathetic personal voices allows us to gain insight into the common voice of white Australians for reconciliation with the Aboriginal community. The ‘Stories’ section presents seventeen stories which give volume to the voice of pain and sorrow which suggest their emotional abuse, rejection, confusion, and the loss of individual’s identity.
In Paul’s story, he states in first-person narration, “All [my mother’s] cries for help fell on deaf ears by a government who had stolen her son.” Paul’s narrative carries a distinct tone of anger and frustration which conveys his criticism of the white Australians’ mistreatments of the Aboriginal people whose identity has been manipulated to suit the government’s agenda to put Aboriginal children on the adoption market place. While the forced separation is a major characteristic of the Stories section, Evie’s story demonstrates another factor, which is physical and emotional abuse. Evie confesses, “The saddest times were the abuse… physical abuse, the sexual abuse by the priests over there. They were the saddest…” The repetition of ‘saddest’ as well as the moral hypocrisy of the priests effectively give voice to Evie’s experience of physical and emotional suffering. The Australian Voice includes a variety of opinions and perspectives which often conflict with one another. The Perspectives section clearly demonstrates conflicting perspectives between political personas and media personnel. John Howard, the former Prime Minister, is one example of a politician who opposes the value of apology and reparation.
This is demonstrated in his emphatic language, “We are not obsessed with symbols”, which conveys his rejection of tokenistic gestures of apology which he believes will only hamper the process of reconciliation. On the other hand, the editor of Canberra Times Jack Waterford represents the voice of the media during the time of Howard’s Prime Ministership who strongly valued the ‘symbolism’ of apology and compensation. The conflicting perspectives between Howard and Waterford demonstrate that the Australian Voice comprises a variety of values and beliefs with regard to the issue of reconciliation. The future generations of non-indigenous Australians should actively seek to understand and accept the Indigenous people as fellow Australians who deserve equal level of respect and dignity.
This notion is upheld by Henry Reynolds in the ‘Afterword’ section. A revered Australian historian, Henry Reynolds raises his voice of criticism toward the past federal government’s mistreatment, abuse and violation of the value of egalitarianism, rejecting Aboriginality as part of their national culture. His critical tone is evident in his descriptive language. “For all their talk about ‘civilizing’ and ‘saving’ and ‘uplifting’ the Indigenous people, White Australian could not accept Aborigines as equal..” The use of critical tone and empathic language voices his personal sympathy which upholds his value of equality and tolerance.
Stolen Children: Their Stories presents the ‘Australian Voice’ as a collection of values, beliefs and perspectives of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians who uphold the importance of reconciliation and the need to accept the past mistreatment of the Indigenous people by the white government authority. The composer Carmel Bird, along with the numerous voices within the text, effectively deliver the powerful message that the chances of reconciliation and cultural harmony will only be improved upon a significant change in the way we view the past, and our willingness to “listen with our hearts”.