Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Heroes we don't praise enough

Glyn Davis is vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne. This is an edited extract of his speech to the Australia Day breakfast at Parliament House, Melbourne.

Thanks, Professor Davis.
AUSTRALIA Day is an invitation to celebrate heroes — those extraordinary people who together made possible our large and successful society.

I come to praise a group of unlikely candidates who get little recognition for their contribution — indeed people who find themselves regularly pilloried in public discussion.

Democracy is underpinned by assumptions we take for granted — that, for example, every Australian can read and write and so participate in public life.

Our political system presumes, without much examination, that Australians understand the purpose and operation of democracy, the value of free expression, the importance of the rule of law, the intrinsic rights of every person.

There was a time, of course, when such assumptions could not be made — when education and literacy were not universal, when essential civic knowledge might not be absorbed at school, to be carried through life.

We had to learn how to live together in peace, and we did so in large part through education ... more

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