Richard Flanagan: ‘Our politics is a dreadful black comedy’ – National Press Club speech in The Guardian

Australian author Richard Flanagan (brother of Martin) addressed the National Press Club as part of the Canberra Writers Festival yesterday.


His speech on Indigenous Australia, ANZAC Day and democracy has been widely shared and discussed as he detailed a divided Australia which he says ‘can be free only if it faces up to its past’.


You can read the speech in full via The Guardian HERE and watch the video via ABC online HERE and leave your comments and discussion below.




  1. The Flangan brothers have taken over!

    In all seriousness though, this was an important address. It was shameful that the Uluru Statement was discredited in both a blithe and sensational manner & on the topic of ANZAC Day, I remember the collective attitude being very different even as recently as 20 years ago, as the last veterans of WW1 shuffled off this mortal coil. That hushed reverence for those now gone could have dovetailed into a more prescient, considered approach to our history in conflicts; unfortunately it seems like we were just sitting on our hands while they remained only to paint the town hyper-patriotic after.

  2. Stainless says

    Wow! That’s pretty heavy for The Footy Almanac. Super writing whatever your views about his arguments.

    The thrust of the speech about national identity has some close parallels with the excellent recent Quarterly Essay by historian Mark McKenna.

  3. E.regnans says


  4. Colin Ritchie says

    First Martin, and now Richard, the Flanagans certainly know how to tell it as it really is. Richard’s speech to the Press Club was brilliant, and one that everyone should read, (especially our politicians!) and appreciate for its depth of insight and intellectual rigour. The unfortunate thing is, the only people who will read this magnificent piece of writing will be like-minded persons and not those who should be reading it. I am hoping this article can be circulated far and wide, especially to schools, to politicians for starters. I am forwarding a copy to my local member, Sarah Henderson (Lib. Corangamite). I hope she has the balls to read it!

  5. Reading this was the best thing I did at work all day. Not a Booker prize winner for nothin’. But yes, the tragedy being those who should read it won’t.

  6. Thanks for bringing RFlanagan’s sweeping canvas to my attention. Much to think about. For me some to agree with and more to disagree with as implausible idealism. We agreed with marriage equality not just on the basis of inherent fairness, but also because it cost us nothing. So hard to draw too many extensions for other debates. Military triumphalism is detestable and the excessive memorial grandstanding that goes with it. But I don’t sense that many buy into the lie. Yes politicians are weak and selfish, because they reflect the short-termism of the people that elect them. If we don’t like the image we can’t blame the mirror. I could go on – homelessness platitudes (is housing really the problem or family trauma and intergenerational addictions?). I can see how isolation, space and the land shaped the early convict underclass, and the similarities to indigenous culture. But is that a broad pattern that extends nationally and to farming and mining settlers. Is it a greater influence than fenian yearnings and protestant aspirations? Or the escape from poverty and war to economic security aspirations of post WW2 European migrants. To me RF is using selective history to sustain his moral agenda. Our ongoing cruelty on Nauru is unnecessary, but pointing to a limited capacity for solving the rest of the world’s problems by importing a limitless number of refugees is not.
    The world and Australia’s lucky country privileged status seems like an overwound clock to me also, but like the economist who predicted 50 of the last 2 recessions I have learned how difficult it is to predict the future – apocalyptic or prosperous. Technology and capitalism have shown a remarkable capacity for reinvention and unpredictable creativity.
    I don’t sense an appetite among us turkeys for calling Xmas early. To be soft hearted requires an ongoing commitment to remaining hard headed. We shouldn’t think one a substitute for the other.

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