2015 Sandra David Oration

Journalist and speaker Geraldine Doogue AO, delivered the annual Sandra David Oration for 2015 at St Vincent’s Clinic on 30 September. The topic of this year’s oration was “Hopes and dreams for an ideal Australia.”

Ms Doogue set the scene with a video of her two young grandchildren, representatives of a generation who will inherit the Australia that we build today, before proposing to do some “realistic dreaming about what might be possible in this country of our” and asking: “how might we thrive?”

The first dream she shared was one of peace:  “I think my role as an elder is to keep a constant vigil about any subtle drift towards war or a growing appetite for the glamour around war.” She asked the audience to consider the 100 years of peace in the 1800s and the complacency that led people, catastrophically, into World War I.

Hopes for a worldly Australia that looks at the big picture were also included in her dream:

“I also yearn for these children to grow up in and contribute to an Australia that thinks big, that keeps its eye on the big map. That they live among elders that think it is right, not hubris, to participate in conversations that tilt at us being a great country.”

“I think it’s not an accident that we are where we are right now. That underneath all that Aussie, Aussie,  Aussie  bravado, we have created a very interesting young society here, based on an incredibly old one, and I think we need to explore it and understand it more in order to keep it going and to make us fit for purpose.”

Australia’s position in Asia was identified as an asset that should be recognised and Ms Doogue called on Australians to recognise the benefits of living in the “sweet spot” that is Australia during the Asian century and to draw on the opportunities for collaboration and innovation available within the neighbourhood.

A fairer society was another hope that she shared for her grandchildren’s future:

“ I’d like these children to grow up in a fairer society as part of my hopes and dreams for an ideal Australia;  where money doesn’t open all doors, yet where the generation of wealth is prompted from our brains and institutions like this are really praised. Where there is a genuine pride in these achievements, just as much as there is in who wins the Dally M or the Brownlow Medal.”

She expressed hope that the ideal of opportunities for little Aussie battlers would remain a part of our society:

“If we sideline this honouring of the little Aussie battler as a guiding ethic, I think we’ll lose something of our very soul, our young soul. It matters, in other words, the myth that one fosters in the country and the language that one uses to reach each other and capture an intangible essence. I want a deep seated embedding of the thought that inequality is bad, very bad for communities.”

Ms Doogue also expressed hope for a lifestyle that includes time for rest and personal connections. “I’d like more settled households, ones where the 24/7 open all hours culture has been tamed…The creation of families that are real, that realise our lives, our 21st century lives;  that express a hope of what we can do in the future.”

She concluded the oration with a final hope for the Australia of the future:

“We really have a lot to be proud of in this place, but I think we are on the cusp of a lot of potential and now is the time to test the potential, to take the chance so that we really do emerge as a great nation, and that is what I would like to bequeath to those two little kids, and I am sure Sandra David would thoroughly approve.”