The Great Australian Silence:
Inside acoustic space
by Jane Belfrage, May 1994
Concepts such as the Great Australian Emptiness, the Great Australian Loneliness and the Great Australian Silence were eloquently evocative of the experience of strangeness and displacement felt by many nineteenth century 'white' Australians. They named deeply felt English responses to the land, signifying lack and loss of 'civilisation' and populous 'settled' landscapes - soundscapes emotionally safe and culturally familiar. Non-indigenous cultural formulations of knowing the land, they have both mythic and poetic power. Their political counterpart is Terra Nullius.
The trope of the 'Great Australian Silence' has been used by Australian cultural critics in the construction of collective knowledges of this colonised land. It is a knowledge metaphor of listening, signifying what is heard by a dominant cultural subjectivity. For at least one hundred years, it has been exercised in attempts to define an 'Australian' identity-in-relationship to the land and indigenous peoples. In this article I explore the theme of colonisation and epistemology. I focus on particular uses and meanings of the trope of the Great Australian Silence, and discuss listening as a knowledge practice. 
I shall discuss four 'moments' in the life of this expressive trope. Firstly I critique and interpret The Bulletin editor A.G. Stephens' use in 1901, when he codified an Australian myth. This is the myth of the White Male subject of 'the Australian identity', whose self is born and comes to voice, in 'the silence' of 'the bush'. Then, through other literary texts, I shall enter the acoustic space of the Great Australian Silence, and make some observations on who is speaking and who is listening. These accounts dramatise Stephens' project of articulating a masculinist Australian identity-in-relationship to a silent, feminised, objectified land. The original metaphor expresses a perceived absence of expected, familiar sounds. It mutes 'Woman/Native/Other' voices in the acoustic spaces of 'Australia' and amplifies the dominant voices of masculine subjectivities.
The third and fourth moments tune in to anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner's use of the trope in 1968, and Henry Reynolds' use in 1984. Both instances problematise entrenched denial of Aboriginal peoples in constructions of Australian historical knowledges. I shall conclude with a new interpretation, an invented fifth moment for the time of now, our post-Mabo polity. In the last decade of the twentieth century this is a polity that claims to be moving towards decolonisation and reconciliation between the immigrant and indigenous peoples.
In each usage, but in different ways, the 'Great Australian Silence' represents a problematic soundscape of competing knowledge claims. I shall argue that decolonisation in Australia can be facilitated by a more profound listening to indigenous peoples' spoken-aloud verbal texts. Decolonisation can be created and embodied in Australian culture through our recognition of this speaking/listening relationship as a practice of knowledge. Aboriginal peoples' verbal texts encompass the ancient knowledges and knowledge practices native to the land, and the modern history of what Debbie Rose called 'the great Australian holocaust of colonisation.'  An eco-logical practice of knowing embedded in ancient australian  epistemology, listening is vital for the survival of life.
We are now familiar with the story of how, since 1788, the territories or spaces of Australian indigenous peoples were invaded and colonised by English-speaking peoples. We can conceive of Australia as a place where spoken and heard practices of knowledge have been continuously enacted upon the land for time longer than is imaginable. Over two hundred and fifty separate languages, each with their own dialects,  were spoken and heard in the soundscapes of the land as the emigrants first invaded it. Practices of knowledge sustained inter-relationships within and between the peoples and their territories in ecological totalities across the continent.
The invasion of the oral/aural cultures of Australia by the script-bearing peoples of Europe constituted an imposition of epistemic title to the land without the verbal consent of the indigenous peoples.  The invaders' practices of knowledge devastated the australian knowledge soundscape. Grievous silences were imposed as the indigenous peoples were killed and removed and forbidden by law to speak their languages; a silencing of the sounds of australian knowledges. Utterers of English sounds colonised acoustic spaces as they 'extended the frontiers'. The sovereignty claimed for the British throne was discursive and epistemic as well as political.
Foreign, 'deaf', visually-oriented knowledge practices of hand-written and printed texts usurped sovereignty in the knowledge soundscapes of the land. As White Men mapped, renamed and stole the territories, they inscribed themselves and their knowledge systems upon the land and into text. The cultural subjectivity of the White Man was inscribed into the very forms of the landscapes as they were altered and renamed. J.D. Lang, an early leading Presbyterian, summed it up in 1873 in the following verse, documenting the heroics by which newly dominant White Men imposed their own names on the old land:
The land became deprived of the knowledge practices and listeners who understood what it meant to hear, sing and embody australian Law in an ecological balance that sustained all life. Beloved and known by the indigenous peoples for so long, the land's identity and subjectivity was critically altered. It was occupied by invading forces who could not understand it. Their knowledge practices manifested a highly selective epistemic deafness, and a reliance on maps and other paper texts. This latter feature has been critiqued by such indigenous philosophers as Hobbles Danayarri of the Yarralin people when he spoke to Debbie Rose about 'Captain Cook's book'.  In this account Rose interprets 'book' to mean 'law'. I interpret it epistemically as a reference to the literacy that characterised the invaders' knowledge practices, including law. My understanding is that Aboriginal people have continually made efforts to enable the colonisers to understand the practice of knowledge in this land. For example, the current Yorta-Yorta claim in Victoria, under the new native title legislation, is the eighteenth formal land claim made by that community since the 1860's. 
The invaders belonged to a society that made few, if any, attempts to learn native languages.  They forced the multi-lingual peoples to learn their own single dominant tongue, English. They invented a new identity for the land, one that reflected their own mind/body dualism, their own hierarchical social structures, their own overbearing masculine cultural subjectivity and silenced feminine subjectivity, and their distant homelands. Transforming the land into an ecological disaster-zone, they replaced the subjectivities of the land's ancient soundscape with silences and voices and meanings of their own, which were then committed to powerful paper texts.
The silencing of those knowers, and the absences and presences of indigenous knowledges, has been resonating in 'Australian history' since it began to be written.
Literary editor of the Bulletin from 1896-1906, A.G. Stephens midwived foundational literary articulations of racist and male supremacist discourses of 'Australian identity', 'Australian nationalism,' and the 'Australian tradition'. He was one of the first critics to construct an Australian literary canon. In 1901 he nostalgically reflected on the colonial songs of 'the bushman', that mythic White Man ancestor:
This 'great Australian silence', audible and epistemological, was an effect of colonisation. The myriad sounds of the bush were reduced to 'silence'. It was 'silence' because no sounds were recognisable, or culturally known. It was roaring, brooding silence created by the absence of the ancient songs, and the singers of those songs, from the soundscapes. It was silence in which dialogue with indigenous people was not possible, for there was no common language to hear or speak.  The silencing of spoken and heard indigenous knowledges meant that australian philosophies, and traditions of the land's subjectivity, could not be known by the colonising culture.
Nor was the land known or readily knowable. The economic rationalism of the industrial revolution had all but destroyed the old European knowledge-practices of nature as a living, speaking, listening subject. After centuries of European mastery  and exploitation, nature's subjectivity had declined in western philosophy. Man was deeply alienated from nature. Philosophers Carolyn Merchant, Evelyn Fox Keller and Genevieve Lloyd all provide accounts of how, by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nature was imagined in scientific and philosophical discourses as inanimate matter (ie, devoid of mind), an object, a machine, and a woman.  Particularly interesting is woman's presumed likeness to, or association with, the other metaphors. For me the most significant collective meaning of this cluster of metaphors is that they signify a withholding of the power of subjectivity and speech. The silencing of 'feminine' nature changed nature's power from a knowing animate subject, into an object.
Feminine cultural subjectivity was also strikingly absent from centuries of European discourses of knowledge. Feminist scholars have demonstrated how European women had been 'educated for silence'.  'Only as subjects can we speak,' wrote Afro-American feminist bell hooks in 1989. 'As objects, we remain voiceless - our beings defined and interpreted by others.'  Stephens and The Bulletin circle were culturally predisposed to hearing nature, and women, as silent.
In the colonised acoustic spaces Stephens wanted to aboriginalise Australian music; to usurp from the Aborigines their native title to the soundscape. He bestowed it on the 'Bush-grown, Bush-rooted' White Man 'nomad'.  He filled a perceived and desolate 'silence' with the White-Bush-Man's sound-images. Stephens tried to naturalise and inscribe the White-Bush-Man's songs and culture into the soundscape, just as Macquarie's name had been inscribed into the landscapes and maps of colonial culture. The bushman's songs functioned as a symbol of epistemic sovereignty in the knowledge soundscapes. Hearing no familiar sounds, and being unable to enjoy the emotional and spiritual security that comes from extended occupation, only the 'listening mates or gumtrees' could audience and validate the bushman's songs as he sang them in acoustic space. But the powerful discourses of text were able to enshrine and amplify the bushman and his songs. Later generations were starving-hungry for legends that could appear to naturalise us in this land and legitimise our usurped political and epistemic sovereignty.
I quoted Stephens' articulation of the powerful discourse of the White Bushman, a cultural text, from Hugh Anderson's The Story of Australian Folksong (1955).  Together with Russell Ward in The Australian Legend (1958),  - an academic, historical text substantially extrapolated from songs - they participated in a colonial master discourse spanning over a century. This was the nationalist project of the construction of 'the Australian identity'. This pernicious discourse re-presented and textualised the cultural subjectivity of European White Man as a colonial hero conquering and civilising a metaphorically silent feminine land. Perhaps the Bushwackers were the most well-known and loved of its recent exponents, reincarnating the bushmen of 'the Australian legend' and resounding their songs. A rival knowledge to this imperial heroic fantasy is 'the horror and the torment' of 'the White Man's Way'. Bart Willoughby and No Fixed Address sang about this in 1982:
According to Stephens, 'the remote township' and 'the great Australian silence' marked the boundaries of the Bushman's world. White Man in Australia was truly alone. Having silenced nature in his old history, and slaughtered the natives in his new history, the cultural subjectivity of the White Man was situated in a place he did not know, with no-one to talk to but himself.
In keeping with the European tradition of nature as feminine, it was common for bards to project a voiceless feminine identity onto Australian nature. Kay Schaffer (1988)  provides an incisive analysis of how discourses encoded and articulated 'the bush' as feminine into cultural imaginings of Australian nature. In the master discourse I referred to above, 'the bush' is the dramatic ground against which a paradigmatically masculine 'Australian identity' matures. As he penetrated the land, his speech was set against the encompassing silence of the feminine bush.
In 1823 'native'-born Bushwacker William Wentworth used the language of rape to express his vision of how the colonisers would husband the land.
Marcus Clarke's famous 1876 passage on the 'weird melancholy' of the Australian bush described Australia in terms of the engulfing feminine: 'Her history looms vague and gigantic,' he wrote.  In his poem 'The Bush' (1912), Bernard O'Dowd exuberantly rendered Australia as a 'mother' and a 'scroll' on which her 'sons' would write a new culture; a classic articulation of the triumph of masculine order over feminine chaos: 
As many, Mother, are your moods and forms
As all the sons who love you ...
Lovelit, her Chaos shall become Creation
And dewed with dream, her silence flower in song ...
She is the scroll on which we are to write
Mythologies our own and epics new. 
A.D. Hope's poem 'Australia', published after the second world war, depicted Australia as a voiceless crone:
When they 'listened', poets and writers sometimes 'heard' a projected voice of Australian nature. Many understood themselves to be gallant suitors  of, and cultural spokesmen for, the inarticulate or inaudible, mysterious, natural, feminine subjectivity of 'Australia'. In 'The Dream by the Fountain', published in the 1840's, 'Australia' spoke as lover and soulmate to the poet Charles Harpur.
According to literary critic Brian Elliott (1967), the poet George Essex Evans felt that previous poets had misrepresented Australia's "song".  In 'Australian Symphony', published in the late 1890's, Evans entered Australia's distinctive metaphysical silence and longed to make knowable the 'melody' he heard inside. 
Australia had 'found audible voice and characteristic expression' in Lawson and Paterson, according to Stephens in 1896.  'Here ... there is a wealth of novel inspiration for the writers who will live Australia's life and utter her message,' he continued in 1901.  Vance Palmer echoed this bold sentiment in 1942, adding O'Dowd, Bedford and Tom Collins to the list of Australian nature's gallant legitimate spokesmen.  In these constructions of the nationalist discourses of Australian identity, it seems that the imagined feminine nature of Australia desired that White Men speak for her. This proposition conveniently affirmed deep cultural paradigms of masculine cultural subjectivity and speech, and feminine cultural objectivity and silence. The masculine cultural subject's object of desire and knowledge is the silent feminised land.
Relations of power/knowledge, race and gender are inextricably bound together in these self-conscious attempts to articulate who we were becoming. P.R. Stephensen's essay (1935) 'The Foundations of Culture in Australia: An Essay towards National Self-Respect' (which Barnes described as 'probably the most influential piece of critical writing in the period')  began with these thoughts:
In this passage, as in Wentworth's poem, colonisation was formulated in the metaphor of a masculine rape of the 'primitive and 'lovely' feminine land - including its forests. In both accounts the feminine land was represented as being voiceless and passive. Stephensen also reproduced Terra Nullius by obliterating the Aborigines. In his 'human emptiness' they were denied 'human' status. Maybe they were unconsciously present to him in the land's 'primitiveness' and the latent 'terror' evoked by the sound of the native dingo's wail.
He also discussed Australia's 'brief white man's history' which developed, he wrote,
The dominant cultural subjectivity here was the English, Irish and Scots White Man. Cultural subjectivity, authority, and authorship have been the province of the White Man for many centuries in European practices of knowledge. Bulletin editor Stephens referred to these discourses of power/knowledge as 'the Word audible' and 'the Word visible', linking the Word of the White Man with the Word of God. Until recently his cultures and songs were taken as an adequate record of Australian history.  But this record - the White Man as speaking and writing subject - has simultaneously obscured the immensely significant absences and silences of the subjectivities of 'white' women, and indigenous peoples. Inside the acoustic spaces of the Great Australian Silence, the voices of English, Irish and Scots women are muted or inaudible; the indigenous peoples' subjectivities, and the philosophical traditions native to the land, are entirely obliterated. European knowledge traditions had denied women access to the discourses of the cultural production of texts - and therefore authoritative knowledges. In literary discourse, feminine subjectivity was projected onto nature where she was 'heard' by authoritative masculine cultural subjects, and interpreted according to available cultural paradigms. The silencing of the indigenous peoples fits into such a European epistemic schema, for like 'white' women, they were understood as being part of nature. Neither were believed to be endowed with the metaphysical quality known as Mind.  Violently, and in a short space of time, the Aborigines were forced from Europeans' view and beyond Europeans' hearing. In their own lands and in the lands of their countrymen and countrywomen, indigenous peoples' voices were banished in the knowledge soundscapes of this continent. It was indeed a great australian silence.
In her powerful account of what she calls 'post-traumatic stress syndrome,' Trauma and Recovery (1992), Judith Lewis Herman begins with 'the unspeakable'. She writes:
Survivors of rape, child abuse, domestic violence and war combat are likely to suffer psychological wounds that are unspeakable. Such acts of violence knowingly and willingly committed upon people are atrocities, violations and lacerations within the body politic, as well as within an individual. Survivors of these shattering assaults testify with their lives to the difficulties of speaking their knowledges. If they are able to speak at all, often they are not believed. They may internalise, take blame for, or enact the violence they have experienced. Such knowledges are hard to say, and hard to hear, for people like to believe that atrocities do not occur amongst us, to us, or at our hands.
In the 1968 Boyer lectures anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner used the trope of the Great Australian Silence to name the epistemological and historiographical 'cult of forgetfulness practised on a national scale'  which has pervaded Australian knowledge cultures. He was referring to the dominant culture's 'disremembering' of the Aborigines. For Stanner it meant
Denial was central to the foundational discourses that created 'Australia'. In Stanner's use of the term, the Great Australian Silence is epistemic. It is about the systematic denial of unhearable and unspeakable atrocities that have constituted practices of genocide in our shared Australian history.  The Italian philosopher Gemma Corradi Fiumara included 'total refusal' in her account of the kind of 'silence' Stanner denounced:
Until recent years, the knowledges of genocide embedded in the memories of indigenous people have remained outside non-indigenous discourses of knowledge and systems of categorisation. Many of these knowledge claims are accounts of surviving the 'horror and the torment' of colonisation.
Stanner identified national collective denial of a trauma so deep it had become 'unconscious'. It could not be discussed or treatied. But, as Herman observes, buried trauma does not go away. Witness must be borne and the trauma publicly recognised so that healing can occur. I perceive a similar phenomenon present in Australian society, for it is difficult for us to accept that a prolonged history of genocide has created the conditions in which indigenous and immigrant peoples live together in this land today. 'Genocide' is a word for sustained collective atrocities that have occurred on this land within the body politic. It is a trauma concealed within our discourses of national identity, and manifested by our institutionalised racism. It has been passed through the generations; it will not go away until we recognise it as ours and deal with it. Stanner named this unspeakable trauma as the 'Great Australian Silence'.
In contemporary discourses of knowledge, metaphors of voice and silence have amplified the knowledge claims of politically suppressed or silenced subjects engaged in political struggles for recognition and embodiment of their knowledge claims. To have a 'voice' is to be a subject, a knower; while 'silence' signifies both an act of rejection and a knowledge domain. To be 'silenced' is to have a knowledge claim refused; a reality denied. It is to be rendered an object, powerless. It is to not possess epistemic sovereignty. In this sense not just persons but cultures can be rendered into silenced knowledge-objects by politically violent means. Paolo Freire named polities of colonised Latin America as 'cultures of silence' in 1970. 
Elsewhere 'silenced voices' are often invoked to amplify demands for change, drawing attention to power relations in embodied communities of listening and speaking knowers. These struggles have challenged, and continue to challenge, the epistemic hegemony of the master subject of western epistemology. This is paradigmatically a 'view from above.'  Feminist discourses in particular have employed metaphors of voice and silence to amplify the knowledge claims of 'women' as politically suppressed or silenced subjects. They have revealed a concern with problematising who has powers to speak and be heard; whose knowledges constitute 'knowledge'; whose reality is real. In the language of campaigns and writings against rape, domestic violence and sexual abuse, feminists have employed metaphors of voice and silence: the 'unspeakable' nature of trauma experienced by a victim or survivor; the necessity to 'speak out' with one's 'voice' and 'break the silence'. Australian indigenous people are not the only survivors of what Bart Willoughby named the White Man's Way. Through femininst intervention, abuses and violations are becoming constituted as public knowledge and responsibility. Old social standards are being challenged and changed so that these abuses may cease.  The metaphor of voice draws attention to the speaking practices of the political struggles in which those metaphors were embodied. It signifies women's efforts to constitute themselves as speaking subjects.
It also points to the communal or collective nature of the construction of knowledges. In her introduction to the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock, Evelyn Fox Keller (1983) describes the process by which scientific knowledge comes into being. Hers is a paradigm of dialogue between a dissenting individual and a powerful institutionalised community of knowers. A knowledge claim becomes constituted as 'knowledge' when it is recognised and validated by a community. Dissent is a disagreement within a community of knowers over what constitutes a community's 'knowledge'. Embodied political struggles challenge powerful knowers to recognise and embody the truth-value of dissenting knowledge claims. The political struggles of indigenous people and their allies are struggles for communal recognition and embodiment of knowledge claims concerning the ownership and Law of the land, and the maintenance of Australian indigenous identities and cultures.
Contemporary discourses of knowledge use metaphors of voice and silence to dramatise the making of dissident knowledge claims. Yet the other side of this metaphor and knowledge practice, listening, has received little attention. Unless 'voices' are heard in a community of knowers, the knowledge claims made by speakers can never come to be embodied as 'knowledge' in the body politic.
Sixteen years after Stanner's powerful challenge Henry Reynolds recalled Stanner's words. In the 1984 Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture, Reynolds declared that the Great Australian Silence had been broken by 'white Australians' confronting their history.
The rapid growth of Aboriginal historiography since the 1960's was a major sign of breaking the denial Stanner had identified. But breaking a 'silence' means more than writing: it is an aural metaphor of speaking and listening in the body politic. Given that very few have access to constructing and authorising 'knowledge', 'white' historians' 'incorporation' of 'the black experience' may render that 'experience' merely a retrospective chapter in the texts of non-indigenous history. Such practices of knowledge reinforce the political dominance of non-indigenous cultural subjectivity. They do not redistribute epistemic sovereignty; they perpetuate colonisation at an epistemic level.
Indigenous peoples' voices and knowledges, and immigrant womens' voices and knowledges, were banished into the Great Australian Silence. To break it is also to bring those knowledges out of silence and into hearing. In order to recognise black subjectivities and knowledge practices we need to embody the knowledge practice of listening. By this I mean hearing indigenous peoples' voices teaching native australian philosophies, sciences, cultures and knowledges in Australian educational institutions and on the land; just as 'white' women's voices are beginning to be heard, teaching in those institutions. It is to listen contextually and historically, to listen in relationship, to listen with imagination and heart. In Australian communities of knowers, it is to discursively affirm and consolidate indigenous peoples' knowledges - just as feminist struggles continue to create new knowledges and social practices in the body politic. As we move towards the creation of an Australian Republic, there are many who long to witness a greater justice in the land, and healing between our peoples.
As a knowledge practice in western epistemology, listening has an almost non-existent status. Western epistemology is dominated by the discursive practices of printed texts. In mainstream Australian culture - indeed in western cultures - a knowledge must eventually be authorised to have the status of 'knowledge'. Educational institutions discursively produce what counts as 'knowledge' in the form of printed texts. In this culture the written word has greater status than the spoken word; speaking has greater status than listening.  Since Plato first wrote about 'the mind's eye'  two-and-a-half thousand years ago, visual metaphors have dominated the language of knowing in English and other Indo-European languages.  The assimilation of 'knowledge' to writing has produced cultural deafness at an epistemic level.
Reynolds argued that the Great Australian Silence has been broken by Aboriginal people speaking in public soundscapes, and by our developing willingness to hear, articulate and confront the unspeakable of our history. I agree with this argument, and open out the breaking of this silence to include the slow but substantial affirmation of feminine subjectivity and women's voices that feminism, as a political and liberatory movement, has helped to bring about. My final 'moment' is a wish and a longing for the future of Australian culture: perhaps it can now name a reciprocal, dialogic space in which greater understanding and reconciliation can occur. This kind of silence is what Corradi Fiumara called 'a co-existential space which permits dialogue to come along'.  Silence is a necessary part of dialogue. It can signify attentive listening; it provides room for recognition of difference and intersubjectivity. As Evans wrote so perceptively a century ago, 'Silence is the interpreter/Of deeper things.' Silence is an acoustic space in which voices - sounds - can be heard. Without silence, sound is but clamour and cacophony. Without silence, the identities - the whatness - of sounds cannot be distinguished.
The High Court's 1992 decision to recognise native title dismantled under Australian law the foundational proposition that, for the purposes of British colonisation, the Aborigines were not 'legally' here. The Mabo decision recognised native title in land that is no longer Terra Nullius. This decision took place through a legal and epistemological battle lasting ten years. An important part of the evidence the High Court heard, recognised, and consented to, were the spoken claims to possession of the islands of Mer (Murray islands) in the Torres Strait by the indigenous Meriam people. The High Court devised a system of categorisation and verification of indigenous oral epistemology, including its law. It tested the truth of those knowledge claims against its own tradition.  The Mabo decision was a dialogue at law. 'Black experience' is being imagined into the legal paradigms of Australia's national and international identity. Proper recognition of 'the black experience' must eventually take us to the central questions of sovereignty. Can we recognise the founding of Australia as an invasion? Can we dismantle the lingering colonial sovereignty of the hapless British Crown? Can we affirm Aboriginal sovereignty/sovereignties? and treaty accordingly?
Just as native title has been recognised, knowledges and knowledge practices native to the land can also be restored to Australian bodies politic if the political will is present in our collective communities of knowers. The knowledge practice of listening also has a dimension of 'heeding': that is, the ability to respond to the speaker's desire by embodying the desired action. Healing for the trauma of genocide suffered by indigenous people for over two hundred years can come about through Australians' cultural recognition and embodiment of indigenous peoples' knowledge claims. Healing from Terra Nullius, a silencing of the land and the indigenous peoples, is a collective national process fuelled by collective political will. The land was neither 'empty' nor 'silent'. Decolonisation in Australia must include hearing and recognition of australian knowledges and knowledge practices. The Mabo decision can take us into a new interpretation of this evocative and powerful metaphor. I want it to symbolise another kind of listening practice: an understanding of what it could mean to co-exist in equity with indigenous peoples, whose ancient knowledge heritage would be at the heart of cultural life in Australia.
Inhabiting a culture that, historically, has enacted genocide, we also need to continue to come to voice about the compulsory 'forgetting'; the deeply-buried sadness and guilt we have inherited from this painful history. The discourses of Mind are not enough to contain the emotional and moral significance of our history. We need to recover our banished hearts and speak from there. This is the place where dialogue begins.
In 'Australia', this common ground inhabited by multi-lingual immigrant and indigenous peoples, listening is the epistemic practice that we need to recover in order to sustain relationships that enhance life. Many indigenous peoples still know how to hear the voices of nature according to their cultures' traditions. This is rare and precious knowledge. It is a practice of knowing that incorporates ecological webs of intersubjectivity and dialogue. Perhaps in another century - perhaps even by 2001 - we may achieve greater decolonisation in Australia. By listening, immigrant peoples can come to recognise, restore and honour the knowers, knowledge practices, and knowledges that are profoundly located in this beloved land. The Great Australian Silence can come to symbolise a space for intersubjectivity and reciprocity, rather than an act of epistemic oppression. The Silence, Loneliness and Emptiness felt by our cultural ancestors can grow into relationships of dialogue, mutual honour and respect, and experience of belonging.
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