The Hon. John Anderson AO has called for young Australians to have the courage to stand up for their beliefs and engage with other people’s perspectives, in a series of speeches to students and parents at St Andrew’s Cathedral School on Wednesday.
Mr Anderson, who served as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia from 1999 to 2005, spoke on leadership, world politics and the future of Australian democracy. Renowned for his strong values and community mindedness, Mr Anderson encouraged young people to further engage with their history in order to understand society and culture.
“If you can understand your past, you’ll understand where you’re at, and where you’re not to go in the future and where you can safely go,” he said. “And we’ve lost that heritage.”
In an age of increasing polarisation among voters, where over 70 per cent of the population believe that politicians “only look after themselves”, Mr Anderson reflected on the need for every Australian to take greater care for one another.
“In an age of radical individualism, we’ve said, ‘it’s all about me, it’s not about my neighbour’. It’s a hopeless substitute of the Christian message of doing unto others as you’d have them do unto yourself,” he said.
“Freedom is an incredibly complicated thing. We haven’t done much thinking about it in Australia because we didn’t have to fight for freedom. We have fought strongly and courageously to defend it [in times of war], but we didn’t have to fight for it initially.”
“No great society lives forever,” he said, explaining that a pattern of immense growth and prosperity leads to selfishness, and then, eventually, to apathy. “Anything that the extremes of left and right find offensive are being legislated to stop offensiveness. The increase in security legislation and the restrictions being placed on freedom of speech prove that basic freedoms are easily lost in a time of apathy.”
Only by engaging with our nation’s history and the inherently Christian foundations of modern society will we be able to truly understand our history and what made us who we are today, Mr Anderson said.
Year 12 Economics student Grace Yarrow said Mr Anderson’s talk to senior students was engaging. “I think a lot of the things I hear about are from a specific stance,” she reflected. “It was interesting to hear it from a more conservative view.”
Year 11 student Jay Newman said he found Mr Anderson’s talk on leadership really inspirational. “I learnt that [leadership] is hard, but it’s all worth it in the end,” he said. “I found it great how he described people who worked very hard to get where they were today, and how they are making a difference.”
– Anthony Segaert