This year’s Australia Day has seen both old and new issues come under the spotlight, including indigenous culture, asylum-seekers, gay marriage, and climate change.
These issues, however, cannot be solely discussed through political means but through the arts.
Academy-award winning actor Geoffrey Rush was named the 2012 Australian of the Year in a ceremony at the Parliament House, Canberra. In his acceptance speech, he urged Australians to consider the importance of arts to nurture and uplift the spirit of the nation. Rush spoke of urgent issues that affect the nation which can find solutions in the arts.
Rush says Australia is one of the oldest nations on earth where inspiration abounds. He noted that going back to the root of the nation through aboriginal history, culture and performing arts, Australians will be able to find “our dreaming” which leads to the heart of the nation’s being, the ABC quoted him in his speech.
The ABC added, “In the past, Australians of the year have used the spotlight to focus on social, political or environmental issues, but Rush does not see it as a automatic megaphone.” As a performing artist, the event is an opportunity to spotlight current issues through the arts.
SBS, a multicultural public broadcaster, also noted Rush of his support to local writers to write stories about people who come to Australia by boat.
“I put a call out to the writers of Australia, we’ve had a bumper year in television drama, people are starting to watch it in great numbers..I would love a writer to write a fabulous great miniseries,” the SBS quoted him in his speech before reporters.
SBS has produced a documentary last year entitled “Go Back to Where You Come From” which featured six Australian volunteers who were challenged to take part in an adventure to experience life as a refugee. The script took them to the local communities where refugees have settled down, then flash backward to the horrific journeys by sea, asylum-seeker camps, and to the tricky and dangerous places on earth. Featured places include refugee camps in Malaysia, war-torn Jordan, Iraq, and Congo. The mini-series has elicited various reactions from televiewers while Fairfax media lambasted the series claiming it as a story for the manipulated and gullible participants.
Rush is a stage and film actor. His first film Hoodwink was featured in 1981. He rose to global fame in 1996 with the film Shine for which he won an Oscar. More recently, he appeared on Munich, Pirates Of The Caribbean and The King’s Speech, for which he earned a BAFTA. Rush is an ambassador for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and UNICEF Australia, as well as patron of the Melbourne International Film Festival.