The legacy of Paul Keating’s Redfern speech

More than 25 years since Paul Keating’s historic speech in Redfern Park

Launch of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, 10 December 1992 Redfern Park. City of Sydney archives, photograph by John Paoloni

On 10 December 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered a speech to the large crowd gathered in Redfern Park for the launch of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

It was a historic moment for Australia.

Stan Grant, Sol Bellear, Matt Doyle and Prime Minister Paul Keating at the launch of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Redfern Park. City of Sydney archives, photograph by John Paoloni

In his speech, Keating explicitly acknowledged the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. It was the first time a prime minister spoke about the dispossession, violence and prejudice perpetrated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

People who were there recalled the crowd’s reaction – view the full clip below.

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1S4F1euzTw

Community leader and Elder Solomon Bellear AM was there on the day.

Sol recently passed away and there will be a state funeral to honour his legacy at Redfern Oval, next to Redfern Park on Saturday 9 December. He was a titan of community advocacy and leadership.

Sol saw great value in the Redfern speech and the importance of acknowledging this pivotal moment in Australian history.

The late Solomon Bellear AM at the launch of the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. City of Sydney archives, photograph by John Paoloni

He told The Guardian recently, “Keating called it – the history – for what it was. And it all goes back to history in this country. All of it”.

The mural on stage during Keating’s speech was created by Bundjalung artist Marlene Phillips especially for the event. The mural is now part of the City of Sydney’s civic collection and was on show in 2017 at Redfern Community Centre to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Redfern Speech.

Marlene Phillips’ mural on display at Redfern Community Centre for the 2017 Redfern Community Christmas party. Image: Katherine Griffiths

Redfern Park now features a series of artworks including Bibles and Bullets by Fiona Foley that incorporates a quote from the Redfern Speech.

It begins, I think with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice.

– Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Redfern Speech, 1992

City artwork 'Bibles and Bullets' by artist Fiona Foley in Redfern Park. Image: Katherine Griffiths

Learn more

Posted . Last updated .

Subscribe for updates

Choose the news that interests you

Sign up
Sign up