Director's speech to staff at Christmas Lunch 2022

19 December 2022 in From the Director's Desk

Merry Christmas 2022

Good morning.

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are today, the Wadjuk people of the Noongar nation. My respects to their elders past, present and emerging and to all Aboriginal people here today.

It’s great to have so many of us together at this special, annual event. The Christmas period is a special time, not just for those of us who are grounded in the Christian tradition but for the broader community as well.

What makes it special is the “spirit” of Christmas. When stripped of its commercialism, it is a spirit of togetherness, kindness, care, sharing and generosity. It is the ideal and practice of altruism expressed in the very best of ways.

This ability for mutual regard and concern for others is a special trait of the human person. The recent natural disasters on the Eastern seaboard remind us of our capacity for selflessness and self-sacrifice for the betterment of others. The public expressions of grief and concern at senseless loss of life, as happened only a few days ago, show how connected we are, even with those we don’t know. The day to day, simple actions that fill our lives are very often drawn from a need and a desire to help. It is a recognition of the limits of our shared humanity and the need we have for each other, if we are to survive.

In all of us there is the need to love and be loved. This inherent capacity for good, this need for each other and the yearning to live in peace and harmony, so fundamental to our nature, is often underplayed if not forgotten in our public discourse. The attention in much of our media is given to those events that enhance fear and resentment. We are bombarded with information and visuals that present the very worst of human nature.

In a world that has become increasingly focused on individualism and competition as the means necessary for survival, togetherness and cooperation become of secondary importance.

In 2017 Richard Monbiot in his book “Out of the Wreckage” states:

“Competition and individualism are the values at the heart of the twenty-first century secular religion. Everywhere we are encouraged to fight for wealth and social position…Competition we are told will enhance our lives to a greater extent than any other instrument.”

Monbiot’s book is not morose or depressing. His point is that there is another way to view humanity other than as individualistic and uncompromisingly competitive. Mobiot’s view sees people as inherently good, finding their greatest fulfilment in their altruism and collaboration.

This is what makes our work so important. Our values, that place the wellbeing of others at the centre of societal considerations and that seek a society of acceptance, tolerance and compassion, expresses the very best in humanity. This is not easy to do in our western world. A world that is overly concerned with individual success and committed to accruing wealth for the very few at the expense of the many.

You are very special people whose efforts are a counterbalance to the excesses of our time. Without you and the principles and values you express, there would be no end to the oppression of others and “Who would care for those left behind?” Your very presence in our community questions prevailing beliefs and actions and leaves the door ajar to the creation of a better world. Please do not underestimate the importance of this.

Thank you for all your efforts. You have my respect, admiration and appreciation.

May Christmas be a very happy for one for you and your families and friends.

Let’s now enjoy this wonderful event that we all look forward to every year.

Adj. Prof. Tony Pietropiccolo AM