Home .Change and innovation Some Australia Day thought leadership
Some Australia Day thought leadership
Monday, 23 January 2012 23:01

We should all be grateful for and admirative of the life and work of leading Australian neurosurgeon Charlie Teo.

We should also take seriously his Australia Day message ...

... which is a call for an Australia that is both culturally and socially sensitive and tolerant, an Australia that acknowledges a responsibility to our own people as well as our near and distant neighbours who are less fortunate than us and an Australia that identifies, nurtures and rewards scientific, economic, technological and environmental curiosity and innovation.

When Teo, a son of Chinese migrants, was a boy in the 1950s and 1960s, racism was rife in Australia.  He would be jeered or mocked by groups of kids anytime he ventured into a public space.  While racism has certainly diminished over the last 50 years, it is incorrect and naive to say that there is no anti-Arab or no anti-Indian sentiment in Australia.

While racism still exists in Australian culture today, Teo is honest enough to say that his Chinese mother would speak of “white devils”.

Teo is also concerned by the increasing incidents of rage in our society.  While Aussies might still be hard working, unaffected, genuine, affable, relaxed, egalitarian, irreverent and charitable, the phenomenon of rage is now spreading from the road into the workplace, the malls and even the last bastion of the laid-back, free spirited Aussie, the surf!

He only wishes that those angry people could spend a day with a person who has lost a loved one to brain cancer.  They would rapidly attain a more realistic perspective that the most important determinant of happiness is our health and the health of our loved ones.

Teo believes that Australia has a moral and social obligation to demonstrate a higher level of kindness to and acceptance of refugees.  Our country would benefit from immigration of peoples from countries of conflict, or those subjected to political persecution, who are simply seeking refuge from violence and a better life for their children.  Most Americans would concede the dependence of their economy on the hard-working and fiercely loyal Mexicans.  Regrettably, both sides of Australia's political fence are floundering on this issue.

Another area where Australia could draw lessons from the US is in encouraging scientific curiosity and innovation, says Teo.  He is frustrated by the enormous disparity in scientific research funding between Australia, and the USA and other OECD countries.

Teo argues that the wealth generated by the current mining boom should be seen as an opportunity to build the foundations of the next boom, the mind boom. We have the scientists. All we need is the insight and foresight to put our resources to good use.  At the moment, many of our best scientific minds have left for greener pastures, and many have been culled through lack of funding.  These are the minds that could take Australia from being the greatest place to live, to being, simultaneously, the greatest place to work.

Australia has a history of being able to identify talent, nurture it and reward it in the sporting arena.  There is no reason we can’t do it in the scientific arena.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just ordered a brain-storming session for members of parliament from her Labour Party government.  This has been treated with predicatable derision by Australia's ever cynical and irreverent media, politicians and public.  It is indeed regrettable because Australia does need new thinking of the type proposed by Charlie Teo.

 

Reference:

AUSTRALIA DAY 2012 ADDRESS DELIVERED BY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR CHARLES TEO AT THE NEW SOUTH WALES CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC ON 23 JANUARY 2012

http://www.australiaday.com.au/whatson/australiadayaddress2.aspx?AddressID=30


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