It certainly snuck up on us… Former Prime Minister, John Howard, stubbornly resisted any attempt – for many, many years – for the nation to say “Sorry” to Australia’s Aboriginal population for the Stolen Generations. Actor John Howard (currrently appearing in television’s All Saints), did once say “Sorry” in the very funny TV mockumentary, The Games, but that one doesn’t count! However… in just a few more hours, our new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, will say “Sorry” – and a nation (and much of the world, thanks to the immediacy of the Internet) will down tools and listen. Then the next stages of Reconciliation might be able to proceed.
Australian schools have been encouraged to organise for students to witness the event live, which will no doubt cause a bit of a scramble in some schools. We do have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on hand – and use them often – but my school doesn’t have a working TV antennae on the roof. Traditional broadcast options (at least, those in use since the first Moon Landing in 1969, I reckon) will be impossible for us. Taping the speech at a teacher’s home, then watching it all together the next day, just won’t cut it. (That might work for the average episode of BTN, but not this event.)
Therefore, the Principal, my library clerical and I did a tech dress rehearsal today, with: a laptop computer, recommended software, data projector, standard projector screen and the spare Internet hub (located in a sports storeroom within in the assembly hall). I’m glad we didn’t leave it until the morning of the apology; if the tech fails us, it will be a disaster perhaps equivalent to the communications breakdown that threatened Apollo 11‘s historic moonwalk in the Aussie motion picture, The Dish.
This significant day in Australia’s history will undoubtedly become one of those “Where you you when that happened?” events, and we’ve all crossed our fingers that the fickle finger of fate won’t bring down a tech disaster of epic proportions. (Although we’d been informed that schools could gain access to tomorrow’s live streaming, from Parliament House in Canberra, via the Internet, the Department’s intranet and TaLe, we couldn’t find a hyperlink which seemed to be awaiting The Big Day.)
I ended up doing a simple Google search (essentially, my total contribution to the rehearsal), to find the website for Parliament House (haven’t been there in ages!), and I was pleased to see a very obvious link, along the top of the frame, for Live Broadcasting. We bookmarked the site, and did our trial run on this afternoon’s Opening of Parliament 2008, and were able to identify exactly what needed to be done to maximise sound and picture quality. The “test pattern” gave us a moment of panic, but when the session finally started our trial run seemed to indicate that “doing our homework” would ensure success. The extended “test pattern” gave us a moment of panic but, when the session finally started, our trial run seemed to indicate that “doing our homework” would ensure success.
I hope the speech brings everyone the hope and acknowledgment that many have pinned to this long-awaited, historic gesture.
The session at 9am this morning went off relatively successfully. We were very glad we had done all that exploratory work yesterday afternoon, and especially relieved that we also had a radio on hand, tuned to the ABC. At one point, the sound level of the live streaming video was too soft for an assembly hall full of students, and there seemed to be an increasing time delay between the radio broadcast and the streaming video.
The live feed dropped out twice but was quickly reactivated. We imagine that a lot of people the world over were tapping into it.
The students seemed to be very aware that something significant was happening and, no doubt, each class would have had some debriefing afterwards.
As I said, it was definitely a “Where were you when…?” moment, and so long overdue. Thank goodness it was watched (and listened to) by more people than Pauline Hansen’s maiden speech all those years ago – which was probably the last Parliamentary speech to garner so much interest.
Ian, thanks for letting me know about this post. It’s great to see that so much effort was put in to giving this event the attention it deserved (I think) in our schools. Education on this issue has obviously come a long way since I was a student. For which I am mighty grateful.
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Good thought on the earlier preparation. Technology, like sheep, has a habit of dying in the most ridiculous, inappropriate and annoying ways possible just when you haven’t the time to properly deal with them.
As for the ‘where were you when’ issue… I don’t think anybody at our school actually watched it. In fact, none of the kids even mentioned it, and the first I heard it mentioned was during lunchtime when a few said ‘oh, that’s happening today’.
Fairly low key here, although we did fly the Aboriginal flag in place of the state one alongside the national flag today. I thought that was a fair enough gesture.
I only just now read a copy of the document on another blog, and as I said there, it’s as full of rhetoric and fancy filler as I expected, but it’s a much more evenly balanced document than I was expecting. I dip my lid to those who eventually drafted this version.
While I was fairly cynical about the issue (although I love the Aboriginal culture and recognise that wrongs were performed in the past but mostly by generally well meaning people), I have to admit that the document I read does fill me with more optimism about the issue now.
I’ll have to see whether any of the kids realise what’s happened by tomorrow.