Stan Grant’s powerful speech about the “Australian dream” has gone viral in the lead-up to Australia Day, with some hailing it as Australia’s very own “Martin Luther King moment”.
Grant, a Walkley winner and the Indigenous Affairs editor for Guardian Australia, gave the speech in Sydney late last year as part of the IQ2 debate series held by The Ethics Centre. The video was only uploaded to Facebook and YouTube last week, to tie in with the lead-up to Australia Day, and has already racked up over a million views between the two channels.
Grant had been asked to argue for or against the claim that “racism is destroying the Australian dream”. Instead, Grant said, the Australian dream is “rooted in racism”.
“It is the very foundation of the dream. It is there at the birth of the nation,” he said.
“The Australian dream — we sing of it and we recite it in verse: ‘Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free’. But my people die young in this country — we die 10 years younger than average Australians — and we are far from free.
“We are fewer than three per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent — a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons.
“And if you’re a juvenile it is worse, it is 50 per cent. An Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school.”
Grant quoted the poem My Country, by Dorothea Mackellar — “I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges” — before putting his own spin on those famous lines.
“It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains. We were shot on those plains, diseases ravaged us on those plains.”
Grant said he has succeeded in life “in spite of the Australian dream, not because of it”, and urged Australia to do better.
“Every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history. Of course racism is killing the Australian dream. It is self evident that it’s killing the Australian dream. But we are better than that,” he said.
“The people who stood up and supported Adam Goodes and said, ‘No more’, they are better than that. The people who marched across the bridge for reconciliation, they are better than that. The people who supported Kevin Rudd when he said sorry to the Stolen Generations, they are better than that. My children and their non-indigenous friends are better than that. My wife who is not indigenous is better than that.
“And one day, I want to stand here and be able to say as proudly and sing as loudly as anyone else in this room, Australians all let us rejoice.”
You can read the full transcript here.
Since being published online, Grant’s speech has been praised by other high-profile journalists.
— Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) January 22, 2016
— Hugh Riminton (@hughriminton) January 22, 2016
This speech is magnificent..and shaming. Congratulations Stan Grant for telling us with such passion & clarity https://t.co/Y3shfp0ySt
— Fran Kelly (@frankellyabc) January 24, 2016
At the same time, the speech has attracted some negative feedback in the comments section.
“I worry for the collective intelligence of this nation when emotional ranting like this is considered ‘powerful’,” one viewer wrote. “It is full of self-entitlement, self-absorbed historical projection, and the glorification of professional victims.”
As for the man himself, Mr Grant is surprised that the speech is going viral this week, telling ABC Radio that he finds it “humbling and a little bit perplexing” that the speech has found a new life online.
“I think it coincides with Australia Day when people are reflecting on who we are, reflecting on the things that, rightly, Australians can be proud of, but also considering those issues that are still unresolved,” he said.
“If people are now waking up to this and wanting to have this hard conversation, then all to the good.”
What do you think of Stan’s speech? Have your say in the comments below!