(By Dr Glenn A. Davies)
The 2010 Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry will deliver the 2010 National Republican Lecture in Canberra on 26 August 2010. “How long will it be until we have Republicans of the Year?” asks Glenn A. Davies.
LOCATED at the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra is the Australian of the Year Walk. The Australian of the Year honours those Australians who have been recognised for outstanding contribution to our community through the Australian of the Year Awards. It recognises all Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia's Local Hero award recipients since the inception of the Awards in 1960.
The Australian of the Year Walk comprises a series of plinths, seating and lighting, along the promenade directly in front of the National Libraryby the southern shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The plaques stretch from the southern side of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, almost to the front of the National Portrait Gallery.
Incorporated into the Australian of the Year Walk design are five metal strips set flush into the ground, forming the five stave lines to a music score, along with bollards to represent the notes of Advance Australia Fair. Each bollard is topped with a plaque representing a year in history and that year's Australians of the Year. The walk was opened on the 25 January 2006 and commemorates every Australian of the Year since the award's inception in 1960.
The latest in the plinth queue is Professor Patrick McGorry who will deliver the 2010 National Republican Lecture in Canberra on 26 August 2010. McGorry’s public lecture is titled ‘Republic! Australia’s Test of Maturity’. Another Australian of the Year to speak out on the republic is Professor Peter Doherty. When Doherty, 1997 Australian of the Year, and the 1996 Nobel Prize winner commented that we are all "natural republicans" he was probably close to the truth. The Federal Treasurer Peter Costello reiterated Peter Doherty's sentiment on the republican referendum night in November 1999 when he stated: "In their hearts and minds the Australian people are republican." In June 2006, Peter Costello restated on Southern Cross Radio that "Australia already thinks like a republic." Costello was reflecting and acknowledging the presence of republican thinking in Australia and making the assumption that Australian's do not need to be converted to republicanism as they already accept it
Historian and author Mark McKenna describes the Australian of the Year Walk in 'The Nation Reviewed', The Monthly, March 2008, No 32.
"When I first saw the plaques, last December, I counted at least another 40 standing beyond the one that bears the name and photograph of the 2007 Australian of the Year, Professor Tim Flannery. These blank plaques - memorials to the future - stand as if waiting for the years to pass before they can be filled in and become whole. Yet strangely they seem more intriguing than the plaques that precede them. It is possible to imagine the line of blank plaques stretching one endlessly, and their emptiness begs the question: What sort of nation will Australia become over the next few decades?"
The question is which of these blank plaques will inscribe Australia's first ‘Republican of the Year’? Here’s to hoping it’s not too far along the promenade.
For more details on the 2010 National Republican Lecture go to http://www.republic.org.au