Australia at Harvard

The bicentennial of the American nation provides a fitting occasion for the endowment of a chair in Australian Studies at Harvard University.

For Australia was the un-intended offspring of your war of Independence. A certain group of British citizens who would have been settled in the United States was henceforth sent to what became Australia.

But the connections between the history of our two countries extend far beyond our origins. They encompass the political and social ideals which have guided the development of our society.

The ideals inspiring your founding fathers had a direct impact on the development of democratic government in Australia. Your great Revolution was one of those powerful forces which 75 years later helped the Australian colonies to become self governing and to manage their own affairs within a highly democratic political framework.

Your revolution occurred in an age of intellectual ferment when men such as Locke and later Montesquieu, Rousseau and Hume were seeking to apply logic and reason to understanding man and his institutions embodying this tradition of logical enquiry.


It is a tradition, of course, in which Australians have shared, and to which we have made our own contribution...

What we need now, more than ever, is the knowledge which is of positive value to man in increasing his understanding of the world. Our education needs to impart a quality of judgment. The great challenge to educators is to combine the teaching of skills with that broader understanding. The view that the best education need not be relevant, even on a broad definition of relevance, condemns us to failure in our efforts to cope with a fast changing world.

Mr. President, this chair should certainly help to extend further understanding between Australia and America.

I hope also that the work which will be done through this chair will address itself, in part, to some of the major issues which must concern people in both our countries.

Mr. President, I would like to take the opportunity offered by the endowment of this chair to speak a little about the challenges which I believe both our countries face and about the contribution I hope the academic world can make to meeting them...

In this world political leaders are being asked to resolve the problems of societies undergoing exceedingly rapid change. New and insistent demands are made on them. It is now obvious that the highly industrialized democracies face domestic challenges at least as significant and difficult as those facing countries seeking to become industrialized.

Old issues--issues with which your founding fathers were familiar--are now facing us again. Once again we are concerned with the relationship of people to their institutions. We are once again debating how to reconcile effective government with the liberty (or as it is frequently put now) the autonomy of the individual...

How do we explain the fact that some attempted social reforms do more harm than good? Given the real need for reform in all societies how do we ensure reforms strengthen rather than diminish individual dignity and self-esteem?

Again, we are faced with institutions growing in size and influence. How do we make sure that they remain responsive to the people they are intended to serve?

Yet again, there is a constant and natural pressure for improved provision in health, social security, education, transport, urban renewal-in all areas of national policy. How do we prevent demands, expectations, entitlements running ahead of a nation's wealth, for it is evident that when expectations are ahead of resources serious problems arise.