Spark­ing dis­cus­sions

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLIE WIL­SON

FROM the fo­rums of an­cient Rome, where the re­li­gious, po­lit­i­cal and philo­soph­i­cal is­sues of the day were of­ten dis­cussed and de­bated, to the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of TED talks on the in­ter­net, hu­man­ity’s thirst for pub­lic de­bate has re­mained high for cen­turies.

One of the best known lo­cal fo­rums for the high­light­ing and dis­cus­sion of is­sues in our so­ci­ety is the an­nual Ker­ferd Ora­tion, which oc­curs in Beech­worth each July and is now in its 15th year.

This year, the speaker will be North­ern Ter­ri­tory sen­a­tor Malarndirri McCarthy, a Yanyuwa woman from the Gulf coun­try in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and a North­ern Ter­ri­tory Sen­a­tor, and those on the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee said they are proud to be in­volved in the event.

Com­mit­tee chair Karenne Thistle­ton has been on the com­mit­tee for three years, hav­ing joined upon mov­ing to Beech­worth al­most four years ago.

She said she first at­tended the Ker­ferd Ora­tion in 2015, to hear Dr Si­mon Longstaff AO, who spoke about “vis­i­ble” and “in­vis­i­ble” peo­ple in so­ci­ety.

“I found it re­ally in­ter­est­ing,” she said, adding she was “in­ter­ested in that whole is­sue of so­cial pol­icy.”

Since be­com­ing part of the com­mit­tee, Karenne said she has been pas­sion­ate about pro­mot­ing the ora­tion as a way for ev­ery­day peo­ple to en­gage with the big is­sues con­fronting so­ci­ety.

“Our idea is just to chal­lenge peo­ple’s ideas about things,” she said.

She said bring­ing Ms McCarthy to town to speak at the ora­tion came from con­tin­ued feed­back from peo­ple wish­ing to hear about in­dige­nous is­sues.

It is a sub­ject she is keenly in­ter­ested in, hav­ing worked on pol­icy for many years in Can­berra as a pub­lic ser­vant, in­clud­ing in­dige­nous pol­icy.

Karenne said the work of the ora­tion’s or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee hap­pens through­out the year, in­clud­ing con­tact and in­ter­ac­tion with other com­mu­nity groups, from foot­ballers to school stu­dents.

She added that she loved lis­ten­ing to the speak­ers each year, and it of­ten gives her valu­able food for thought.

“All of the peo­ple have been in­cred­i­bly in­for­ma­tive,” she said.

Lo­cal res­i­dent Dr Bill Wil­son has been part of the ora­tion from both sides of the lectern, hav­ing given his own ora­tion in 2012 about Aus­tralia’s first Aus­tralian-born Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral, Sir Isaac Isaacs.

Sir Isaacs is in­deli­bly linked with the re­gion, hav­ing been ed­u­cated in Yackan­dan­dah and Beech­worth and go­ing on to make his mark in pol­i­tics and the High Court be­fore be­com­ing Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral.

A ded­i­cated his­to­rian, Dr Wil­son said he has been in­volved with the ora­tion com­mit­tee for al­most four years.

He said the ora­tion was a valu­able event for the Beech­worth area, with pos­i­tive ef­fects in­clud­ing at­tract­ing tourists, cre­at­ing com­mu­nity dis­cus­sion and de­bate, and ex­pos­ing the area to a wider au­di­ence.

He added that it at­tracts con­sis­tent crowds ev­ery year, al­though who at­tends the ora­tion de­pends on the topic be­ing dis­cussed.

“If you try to find some­thing that’s in­ter­est­ing, peo­ple will turn up,” he said.

Sen­a­tor McCarthy said she is very much look­ing for­ward to be­ing part of this year’s ora­tion.

“I am very much look­ing for­ward to speak­ing at the Ker­ferd Ora­tion,” she said.

“Events like this are just one way that Aus­tralians con­nect and talk about what brings us to­gether as a com­mu­nity.

“The theme of my speech is Our Is­land Home – Be Bold and Brave in a United Vi­sion for Aus­tralia.

“Aus­tralia is at a point where our lead­ers and com­mu­ni­ties need to make some dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions.

“We have seen hun­dreds of thou­sands of Aus­tralians sup­port and work to­wards recog­ni­tion of First Na­tions Peo­ple in the Con­sti­tu­tion and a voice to par­lia­ment.

“We cur­rently have a unique op­por­tu­nity to take a gi­ant step to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and equal­ity.”

The Ker­ferd Ora­tion will be held on Sun­day, July 29 at the Ge­orge Ker­ferd Ho­tel, start­ing at 11am, with doors open­ing at 10.15am.

The Ora­tion will be fol­lowed by a com­mu­nity lunch, and for those at­tend­ing, do­na­tions for the lunch will be ap­pre­ci­ated.

More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able on www.ker­fer­do­ra­tion.org.au.

PHOTO: Co­ral Cook­sley

◆ COM­MU­NITY CON­VER­SA­TIONS: Bill Wil­son and Karenne Thistle­ton are among the Indigo Shire lo­cals in­volved in ar­rang­ing the an­nual Ker­ferd Ora­tion.

◆ HIGH PRO­FILE SPEAKER: Malarndirri McCarthy is this year’s Ker­ferd Ora­tion speaker.

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