News & Events

10 May 2019

Les Murray’s ‘second funeral’ and his everlasting poetry

Les Murray will be farewelled today at St Bernadette’s Catholic Church, Krambach, just out of Bunyah. It will be his second funeral.

More than 20 years ago, Murray suffered an abscess on the liver and was in a coma for three weeks. Coming to, he discovered well-wishers had sent “a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards, / of flowers and phone calls and letters”. Waking to the nation’s love, which he’d “never dreamed was there”, meant everything to him. He called it his “State Funeral”. Now that he really has gone, the accolades have been even more numerous and good willed.

To be sure, some commentators have felt the need, in praising Murray, to indicate they were on the “other side” to him politically. What side would that be? Were they on the other side of Murray when it came to the working poor and marginalised? Were they on the other side to his advocacy, long before it was fashionable, of Indigenous Australians? Were they on the other side when he called out – long before anyone else – the problem of schoolyard bullying and its reverberations through the culture?

“Nothing a mob does is clean,” Murray believed. That was the main thrust of his politics. Like the eponymous hero of his remarkable 1998 verse novel, Fredy Neptune, Murray would often step in to protect individuals from a mob, even if he disagreed with them. In an era of “Safe Schools” programs, this is a lesson that should be part of the curriculum, and there is no better way to teach it than through the work of our greatest poet. But there are, of course, many good reasons to encourage the young to read Murray. Indeed, there is an obligation on our schools and universities to do just that.

When I was 16, my father handed me a copy of the 1983 collection The People’s Otherworld. I was confronted by the brazen dedication to the Glory of God, but I was even more challenged by the language itself: “Flashy wrists out of buttoned grass cuffs, feral whisky burning gravels, jazzy knuckles ajitter on soakages… migrating mouse-quivering water.”

A year later, my interest was fostered by John Watkins, later deputy premier of NSW, who introduced his Year 11 English class to the early poetry, including Driving through Sawmill Towns, Spring Hail and An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow. The difference between these poems and the more mature ones was stark, and intriguing. How to account for it?

Honestly, I was a slow learner. When I first encountered them I could make little literal sense of the more mature poems, but I felt their electric charge and kept returning to them, year after year, delighting when something suddenly became clear. The last line of the poem, Shower, for example: “Only in Europe is it enjoyed by telephone.” What on earth was he talking about, I wondered for years, until I took a shower in Italy in 1997 and lifted the shower-head with its trailing cord from its fitting: a telephone!

I taught this poem to undergraduates over 10 years in an Australian literature course. Their reaction to the closing line was more often than not the same as mine had been, but I couldn’t bear to make them wait as long as I had to to discover its meaning. I can still see their smiles of recognition when they “saw” for the first time what Murray was describing.

And when I see them in my memory, it is another poem of Murray’s that captures their reaction: “Streaming, a hippo surfaces / like the head of someone / lifting, with still-entranced eyes, / from a lake of stanzas.”

We owe it to every student in Australia’s schools and university English departments to give them this experience.

Stephen McInerney is executive officer (academic) at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation and author of The Enclosure of an Open Mystery: Sacrament and Incarnation in the Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins, David Jones and Les Murray.

Article published in The Sydney Morning Herald 10 May 2019

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23 April 2019

Greg Sheridan AO – Distinguished Speaker

On Tuesday 9 April, Greg Sheridan AO, Foreign Editor, The Australian and Author delivered the second Ramsay Lecture for 2019. The title of his lecture was “The Case for God: can Western Civilisation be sustained without belief?”

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10 April 2019

Best-selling author and journalist Greg Sheridan to speak at the Ramsay Centre

Sydney, Tuesday 09 April 2019: Can Western Civilisation be sustained without belief? How much do we owe to our Christian tradition, and what will be the impact of the steep decline of Christian belief in western societies?

That’s the line of inquiry to be addressed by Greg Sheridan AO, Foreign Editor of The Australian newspaper, and author of the best-selling, God is Good for You: A Defence of Christianity In Troubled Times, in the second Ramsay Lecture for 2019.

Speaking to an audience of high school and university students, business, political and community leaders, Mr. Sheridan will argue that Australians need to be better educated about the role Christianity has played in securing our democratic freedoms. And he will outline his belief that Christianity should remain an important continuing influence, even in our multi-ethnic, pluralistic society, where fewer and fewer Australians are identifying as believers or practicing the faith.

“What did we ever get from Christianity – apart from the idea of the individual, human rights, feminism, liberalism, modernity, social justice and secular politics?” Mr. Sheridan says. “Whether people recognize it or not, Christianity has been central to the development of our western societies and civilisation, and its principles remain integral today.”

Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation CEO Professor Simon Haines says that its Judeo-Christian inheritance is one of the two key pillars of Western civilisation. He applauded Mr. Sheridan’s conscientious study of the role of Christianity in our society, including interviews with political leaders from all persuasions on the impact of their Christian faith on their lives and work.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was created with an endowment from the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care, to promote a deeper understanding of western civilisation. The Ramsay Lecture series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage.

Mr. Sheridan is the second speaker for the Ramsay Lecture Series this year, following last month’s address by former Australian of the Year and burns treatment pioneer Professor Fiona Wood. Other speakers to address the Centre have included economist and columnist Henry Ergas, internationally acclaimed author David Malouf, historian Geoffrey Blainey, sociologist Professor John Carroll, and Dr Pano Kanelos, President of St John’s College Annapolis.

Printed versions of the lectures and video podcasts are available via the ‘News and Events’ section of our website:
www.ramsaycentre.org

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098.

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26 March 2019

National living treasure Fiona Wood delivers first Ramsay Lecture for 2019

Sydney, Tuesday 19 March 2019: What is the impact of western science on today’s society? That’s the question world-renowned burns surgeon and former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Wood pondered this evening as she delivered the first Ramsay Lecture for 2019.

Speaking to an audience of high school and university students, medical professionals, journalists, business people and political leaders, Professor Wood argued that despite science’s significant and undeniable benefits, we need to pause and consider what we want science to achieve.

“I witness lives changing in an instant and I strive to bring to the bedside all that modern, or western, science and technology has to offer to reduce suffering,” Professor Wood said. “It is in this context that I am optimistic about the role science plays in our lives. However, I also believe we need to stand back and look at our history to understand and acknowledge the foundations upon which this is all built. As we look to outer space, we need our feet on the ground to consider the impact of our scientific advances on our society.”

Professor Wood, a consultant plastic surgeon from Western Australia, is best known for pioneering the innovative ‘spray-on skin technique’ focusing on reducing the time to healing and life-long scarring in burns survivors, a technique now used world-wide. She is also regarded as a national hero for her work on burns survivors from the 2002 Bali Bombings.

Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation CEO Professor Simon Haines said the great story of western medicine is one we often take for granted, whether it be progress in Fiona’s area of burns, disease eradication, infant mortality, immunization, dentistry and infection control, or the more general truth that we live longer and far more comfortable lives than human beings ever have before.

“As a medical pioneer herself, Professor Wood is in a unique position to analyse the impact western science has had and might continue to have on all the cultures and societies of the world,” Professor Haines said.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was created with an endowment from the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care, to promote a deeper understanding of western civilisation. The Ramsay Lecture series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage.

Professor Wood is the first medical professional and scientist to address the Centre. Her address following lectures last year by economist and columnist Henry Ergas, internationally acclaimed author David Malouf, historian Geoffrey Blainey, sociologist Professor John Carroll, and Dr Pano Kanelos, President of St John’s College Annapolis.

Printed versions of the lectures and video podcasts are available via the ‘News and Events’ section of our website: www.ramsaycentre.org
Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098

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26 March 2019

Professor Fiona Wood AM – Distinguished Speaker

On Tuesday 19 March, national living treasure and former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Wood AM, Plastic and Reconstruction Surgeon, delivered the first Ramsay Lecture for 2019. The title of her lecture was “The impact of western science on today’s society”

 

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25 March 2019

To blame Ramsay for Christchurch atrocity is facile vilification

By Simon Haines
March 25, 2019 — 12.00am

The tragedy in Christchurch has understandably produced a variety of responses, most of them characterised by horror at the appalling evil inflicted on innocent people at prayer. But there was opportunism and cynicism too. The massacre was enlisted in the continuing campaign to prevent the University of Sydney entering a partnership with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Nick Riemer has been a vocal critic of this partnership since it was first mooted. To date his principal argument has been that the goals of the centre are an exercise in white triumphalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The centre seeks, through partnering with universities in creating “great books” programs, to encourage a holistic and balanced understanding of the civilisation which has done so much to shape the world in which we live.

Last week Riemer went much further. He wrote in a column in these pages that “this is all the more reason to reflect on how the Ramsay curriculum validates the world view behind the massacre”. That is a truly extraordinary claim and it should be emphatically rejected, even by others who for whatever reason oppose a partnership between the centre and University of Sydney.

We have all been shocked by the terrible slaughter in New Zealand. Our responses should be compassionate and measured. The victims should be mourned, and those who have lost loved ones comforted. There is a special obligation to avoid the type of sordid political point-scoring that emerges in the Riemer column. By all means attack the Ramsay Centre. That is one of those priceless rights we have been given by our civilisation. But don’t smear its proponents with the monstrous claim that what they seek, in some way, prompted the murder of 50 innocent people.

The Ramsay Centre’s speaker program also came under scrutiny. This program is completely separate from our university partnerships. It is a varied program and includes individuals from different backgrounds who have in common interesting and sometimes controversial things to say about different aspects of Western civilisation.

We have heard from a novelist, a historian, a sociologist, a medical scientist, a columnist and a university president, and will hear from other highly credentialled academics and authors this year. None of them is speaking to us from a party-political perspective. Several of them, however, are well known public figures who run their own commentaries on current events, as they have every right to do. We would urge readers to look carefully for themselves at the credentials and comments of our speakers before trusting the distorting and tendentious snippets offered by Riemer and others.

We and our close friends across the Tasman are fortunate in that we can rely on one of the great pillars of Western civilisation, the rule of law and our justice systems, to ensure that the perpetrator of the dreadful crime in Christchurch is brought to justice.
Meanwhile, our cherished freedoms, including those of religion and speech, which need to be respected at all times, are especially important in such crises as this, when they are most under pressure. This is not a time for facile and irresponsible vilification.

Professor Simon Haines is the chief executive officer of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald – click here to read the full article here

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Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it"
- John Adams