Speech by Ambassador Amanda Gorely
at the Launch of ‘OCTOROON’
(a La Trobe-Ateneo art exhibit)
Ateneo Art Gallery, Ateneo de Manila University
25 January 2016
Father Jose Ramon Villarin SJ, President, Ateneo de Manila University and his distinguished colleagues from Ateneo University,
Dr Amalia de Iorio, Pro Vice Chancellor and Dr Trevor Hogan, Director, Philippines Australia Studies Centre, La Trobe University and their distinguished colleagues from La Trobe University
Ms Boots Herrera, Director & Chief Curator, Ateneo Art Gallery,
Ms Yael Borromeo, Managing Curator, Ateneo Art Gallery,
The co-curator of this exhibition – Michael Brennan,
And one of the artists whose work features in this exhibition, Steven Rhall.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today for the opening of the Octoroon exhibition.
I first met Dr Hogan and Vincent Alessi in Melbourne in December and I was excited to hear about this exhibition and about the 15 year partnership between La Trobe and Ateneo Universities. When they asked me to be involved in the opening ceremony, I was thrilled.
It is particularly good timing for the exhibition to open this week:
Firstly, I arrived in Manila to take up this role just over two weeks ago, so this is the first exhibition of Australian artwork that I have seen in the Philippines. For that reason alone, it would be memorable for me, but the artworks themselves are so powerful that I am unlikely to forget them.
Secondly, 2016 is the year in which we mark the 70th anniversary in formal bilateral relations between Australia and the Philippines. The partnership between these two universities is a great example of the deep links that have evolved over the last 70 years in all spheres of human endeavour. It is the life’s work of people like you that has put the meat on the bones of the bilateral relationship giving it essential vibrancy and vigour. Exhibitions like this help us to understand each other better.
Thirdly, and perhaps more controversially, tomorrow marks Australia Day, Australia’s national day. Australian Day is a time for reflection on what it means to be Australian and for many indigenous Australians it is not a time for celebration, marking as it does, the day that European settlers first arrived at Port Jackson, now Sydney.
I think it is entirely fitting for this at times confronting exhibition to open in Manila in the week of Australia Day. Indeed, the very name of this exhibition, Octoroon, raises important questions of identity.
The works themselves take us far beyond the sometimes comfortable cultural stereotypes that characterise much indigenous art that is seen by overseas and Australian audiences.
These contemporary Australian artists turn a mirror on modern Australia, forcing us to confront our past and to think about how Australia can be a better place for all Australians in the future.
Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to make this exhibition possible. I will mention it in my Australia Day speech tomorrow to encourage as many people as possible to come along and see it for themselves.